A State Lawmaker Defects From GOP

Colorado's Kevin Priola cites GOP positions on climate change, claims of a stolen election
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2022 11:32 AM CDT
State Lawmaker Jumps Ship, Joins Democrats
Colorado state Sen. Kevin Priola, left, in a 2019 file photo. Priola has switched parties to become a Democrat.   (AP Photo/Jim Anderson,File)

On Sunday, Democrats held a 20-15 edge in the Colorado state Senate. On Monday, their advantage rose to 21-14, but not because of a special election. Instead, longtime Republican Kevin Priola switched parties to become a Democrat, reports the Denver Post. In a public letter, he cited two main reasons: widespread support in the party for former President Donald Trump's claims of a stolen election and GOP opposition to fighting climate change. There is "too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge," Priola wrote, per the Washington Post. "Simply put, we need Democrats in charge."

Priola had long been considered a moderate Republican, and Axios sees his defection as "a stark rebuke of former President Trump and the national Republican Party." Still, the piece notes that Priola has voted with Republicans 90% of the time, and that isn't expected to change. The Colorado Sun, for example, describes him as "fiercely anti-abortion." In his letter, Priola wrote that "I cannot continue to be a part of a political party that is okay with a violent attempt to overturn a free and fair election and continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen." On climate change, he complained that Republicans "consistently, and proudly, seek to impede progress ... and I can't, in good conscience, be silent about that."

In response, GOP Senate Minority Leader John Cooke disputed some of Priola's points—he says he knows of no lawmaker who supports what happened at the Capitol and that "we've had climate change ever since the Earth was formed"—and essentially bid him good riddance, per the Denver Post. In a potentially ominous sign for Priola, Cooke added that the new Democrat's constituents "may explore their options for new representation," suggesting he's on board with demands that Priola be recalled. Another line from Priola's letter: "I haven't changed much in 30 years; but my party has." (More Colorado stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.