“Simply Put, We Need Democrats in Charge”—Colorado’s Kevin Priola Ditches GOP August 28, 2022
Much of the post-August 23/2022 primary talk revolves around the outcome of the Florida contests. In 11/2022, the Sunshine State will have two marquee races, one for Governor and one for U.S. Senator. In the gubernatorial race, former Governor (2007-2011) and current three-term Democratic Congressmember Charlie Crist will face off against polarizing, hard-right “in your face” first-term Governor Ron DeSantis. Many GOPers want DeSantis to run for the White House in 2024. They believe he is “Trump without the baggage” (LOL) . Crist, formerly a GOPer, became a Democrat in 2012. Democrats, both nationally and in FL, hope that well-known, folksy, and bi-partisan dealing Crist can bring out the Democratic base, independents, and moderate GOPers against aggressive “pit bull” DeSantis (See nytimes.com, Mazzei, 8/23/22). In the Senatorial race, Democratic Congressmember Val Demings will go against 2nd term Tea Party sympathizer Marco Rubio. Rubio unsuccessfully ran against Demagogue Donald in 2016. However, when Trump won, Rubio became a loyal foot soldier and mostly rubber-stamper of Donald’s agenda (See Cohen & Cook, 2022 Political Almanac). Crist saw fairly early on that the GOP did not support popular President Obama and the progressive agenda he favored that was helping both FL and the rest of the nation. GOPers in other parts of the U.S. have continued to leave the Republican Party, especially after Trump took it over. On 8/22/2022, Colorado State Senator Kevin Priola left the GOP and became a Democrat. In a letter he wrote, State Senator Priola stated he could no longer support a party that accepted “a violent attempt to overturn a free and fair election and continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen.” Priola said that the believed the January 6 Capitol insurrection would make the GOP distance itself from Trump and “the political environment he created,” but it did not. Priola wrote that he watched in dismay “brave and honorable Republicans” who did distance themselves, including Mike Pence, Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, and Adam Kinzinger. They defended the Constitution and ended up being “threatened and ridiculed (businessinsider.com, Rojas, 8/22/22).” In his switch to “Team Blue,” State Senator Priola also cited the GOP’s refusal to address climate change. In Priola’s words, “Today, my Republican colleagues would rather deny the existence of human-caused climate change than take action (AP, yahoo.com, 8/22/22, Anderson, J, Rojas, businessinsider.com,8/22/22).” In his two-page letter proclaiming his party switch, Priola declared, “There is too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge. Simply put, we need Democrats in charge (washingtonpost.com/nation/8/23/22).” Meet Kevin Priola.
Brighton, CO native Kevin Priola went to the University of Colorado in Boulder and received a 1996 B.S. degree in finance and accounting with a minor in economics. Priola became a Republican in 1990 “after the ascent of Ronald Reagan.” Priola was a member of the activist College Republicans (denverpost.com, politics, news, justfacts.votesmart.org, Kevin Priola biography). Priola wrote in his letter that Reagan “spent his presidency looking out for American interests, not cozying up to Russia. He (Reagan) was for free trade and not raising taxes on Americans through tariffs. He also worked across the aisle on immigrant issues (denverpost.com, politics, news).”
In the 2008 election, Priola won a close race for the CO House of Representatives in the 30th district by 1.84 points, 50.92% v. 49.8% In 2010, 2012, and 2014, Priola handily won re-election against his Democratic opponents. In 2010, he won with over 60% of the vote, while in 2012 and 2014, he coasted to victory with over 58% and 63% of the vote respectively (CO General Election Results).
In 2016, Priola ran for the CO State Senate from the 25th district. He won his State Senate race by 4.14 points, 52.07 % v. 47.93%. In 2020, he won an even closer re-election to his Senate seat by 1.68 points, 50.84% v. 49.16%. In the 2020 election, Priola overperformed Donald by over 10% (CO Election Results, denverpost.com, 12/20/20).
While in the CO State House, Priola served as a whip. When he did not support a GOP amendment to legislation, an unsuccessful attempt was made to remove him from his whip position. Priola then resigned his whip post (kdvr.com, 2/07/22). In 2018, Priola was considered as a possible running mate who would run with Lt. Governor, GOP gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton, but failed to get the nod. Stapleton lost the general election to Democrat Jared Polis and a Democrat won the Lt. Governor’s race (Cohen & Cook 2022, coloradopolitics.ccom, 7/11/18).
Priola is considered a moderate. As a GOPer, he worked with Democrats to sponsor or support bipartisan bills (Birkeland, cpr.org, 11/17/2020). He voted in favor of legislation that allowed municipalities to require affordable housing. He was the only GOPer in the State Senate to vote in favor of legislation to prevent landlords from using or disclosing the citizenship and immigration status of their tenants (westword.com, 5/04/21, coloradopolitics.com, 6/11/20). Priola was, again, the only GOPer to favor legislation to prohibit employers from retaliating against workers for reporting health and safety problems or violations (“The Gazette,” 5/03/22). Because of his Catholicism, he was for a time, one of the only GOP supporters to vote to repeal the death penalty. He believed capital punishment disproportionately targeted blacks (westword.com, 3/11/19). Priola sponsored legislation to prohibit the selling or marketing of flavored products by cigarette, tobacco, or nicotine retailers (cpr.org, 4/23/22). Priola voted to allow transgender and nonbinary people to change their names and gender without surgery or judicial requirements. He also voted in favor of legislation to prohibit gay conversion therapy (coloradopolitics.com, 11/27/19). He cosponsored legislation to make HIV prevention drugs available without requiring a prescription (coloradopolitics.com, 6/07/20).
Right after the 1/06/2021 Capitol attack, Priola called for Demagogue Donald to be removed from office via the 25th Amendment or impeachment (coloradopolitics.com, 1/08/21). Priola was the only GOPer to vote in favor of a resolution calling for passing federal voting rights legislation. Unlike 15 other State Senate GOP members, Priola did not vote in favor of unsuccessful amendments to decertify the 2020 election and thanking the Capitol Hill attackers (axios.com, 1/19/22, KMGH-TV, 1/18/22).
Priola’s stands on these issues are mainstream Democratic ones. However, although he is now a Democrat and will caucus with them for the remainder of his term which will be up in 2024, when he is term-limited, (kos.com, 8/23/22), he will not change the way he votes on abortion. In 2014, he sponsored legislation that would have prohibited abortions except in the case of the life of the mother. He also is in favor gun rights (businessinsider.com, naralcolorado.org, 1/17/21). Again, unlike GOPers who have social and economic litmus tests, the Democratic Party is the true “big tent.” Despite his abortion and gun control views, Democrats, including Gov. Polis and Senate President Steve Feinberg, quickly praised Priola’s switching sides (denverpost.com, 8/2022).
In 11/2022, GOPers are working hard to flip the CO Senate back from its Democratic majority. Before Priola joined “Team Blue,” the “Red” GOP camp would have needed to gain three additional seats. Now, they will need four, making this an even harder lift for them in the 11/2022 midterm election (denverpost.com, 8/2022, AP, yahoo.com, Anderson, 8/22/22). CO GOPers are already talking about recalling Priola. Republican legislators are already hearing from people who were thinking about running in such a recall (denverpost.com, 8/22). Priola’s district is considered a GOP one (denverpost.com). Priola represents Adams County. Adams County is in the 4th Congressional District, one with a strong “Red” Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+12. It is not part of the more liberal Denver suburbs. The CO 4th voted heavily for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and is represented by hard-right Freedom Caucus GOP Cong. Kenneth Buck (Cohen & Cook 2022). Only 25% of Adams’ County residents have college bachelor’s degrees, the second smallest in terms of percent with a bachelor’s degree in this area. Adams County is 89% white, true MAGA country (See Cohen & Cook 2022). By switching to the Democratic Party, Priola is not making a move that will necessarily please his constituents. IMHO, he is showing political courage and voting his conscience.
In his letter indicating he would become a Democrat, Priola wrote, “I haven’t changed much in 30 years; but my party has. Coloradans cannot afford for their leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism. Our planet and our democracy depend on it .” Priola’s courageous party switch says it all. Coloradans must back him. And nationwide, Democrats and moderates must come out in droves plus in 11/2022 to keep and add to our “Blue” House and Senate majorities. They must go to the polls with this Priola statement ringing in their ears—“There is too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge. Simply put, we need Democrats in charge.” Welcome to our ranks, State Senator Priola!