Colorado State Sen. Kevin Priola announced on Monday he was switching to the Democratic Party, saying he could not “in good conscience” be silent about Republicans who unfoundedly questioned the validity of the 2020 elections and the existence of climate change.
Priola, a moderate who served four terms in the Colorado House before coming to the state Senate in 2017, said the GOP had changed since the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and he had hoped for the 6 January 2021 attack on the Capitol would cause Republicans to distance themselves from former President Trump.
“Our political affiliations have become too tribal and too much of a litmus test,” he wrote in an open letter posted on his Twitter account.
“I’ve been almost an independent thinker and sometimes I go against the conventional wisdom of my party, and I have no intention of changing that,” he added. “I don’t believe either side has a monopoly on the truth.”
Democrats previously held 20 of the state’s 35 Senate seats, meaning Priola’s party switch will not affect control of the chamber and will only further cement the Democrat majority.
But Priola said his ideological views have not changed and he continues to hold conservative views on issues such as abortion, school choice and gun control.
“To be clear, I will not change the way I vote on legislation,” he wrote. “I’m just going to vote with a D next to my name instead of an R.”
Priola said he no longer wanted to be affiliated with the Republican Party after Jan. 6, also praising Republicans in his letter for breaking with Trump’s position on the riots, including former Vice President Pence, Senator Mitt. Romney (Utah) and Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Illinois).
Following the Capitol uprising, Priola told Colorado Politics that he supports impeachment of Trump through the 25th Amendment. He was also the only Republican to vote with Democrats to ask Congress to pass federal suffrage legislation that same month, Denver7 News reported.
“I cannot continue to be part of a political party that agrees with a violent attempt to nullify a free and fair election and that continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen,” Priola said.
He also took aim at Republicans’ position on climate change, calling the issue a crisis and an existential threat. Priola noted that Nixon, a Republican, signed legislation as president establishing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Today, my fellow Republicans would rather deny the existence of human-caused climate change than act,” he said. “I increasingly believe that this inaction goes against our responsibility as political leaders.”
Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said in a pair of tweets that Priola had “finally made the step to the party he’s always voted with.”
“After lying to his constituents, consistently voting for tax increases and hurting working families in his district, he has now admitted his true affiliation: a pro-tax-raising Democrat,” she continued. . “It is clear that Priola has selfishly chosen to make history at the expense of the Coloradans he was elected to fight for. He will regret that decision when he is outvoted in January 2023.”
Colorado State Senate President Steve Fenberg (D) celebrated Priola’s decision in a statement, saying the lawmaker chose his constituents over partisan politics.
“Where we have had disagreements with Senator Priola in the past, we have always maintained a respectful dialogue,” Fenberg said. “This conversation will continue, only now we will engage it as a member of the Democratic Party.”
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