After decades in GOP, Colo. senator says: ‘We need Democrats in charge’


HR King
May 29, 2001
We need more sane, responsible Republicans to do this:

Colorado state Sen. Kevin Priola was a Republican for 32 years. On Monday, he announced that he couldn’t be one any longer.
So he defected to the Democrats.

There is “too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge,” Priola wrote in a two-page letter explaining his decision, adding: “Simply put, we need Democrats in charge.”

Priola cited two reasons for the switch: Many Republicans peddling false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and the party’s efforts to block legislation that would fight climate change.
Priola has served in the Colorado Capitol since 2009, first as a representative and then, starting in 2017, as a senator. He won a second term in the state Senate in 2020 and is up for reelection in 2024. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post late Monday.

The change in Priola’s party registration does not affect the balance of power in Colorado’s Senate; Democrats already controlled the chamber but now enjoy an even greater 21-14 majority as Republicans gear up to try to wrest control in November, the Colorado Sun reported.
On the whole, Republicans are in the midst of an internal battle between two factions vying to control the party: candidates loyal to former president Donald Trump who are willing to parrot his false election claims and rivals who want to move the party past all that, The Post has reported.
Final stretch of primaries will showcase a divided GOP
Priola decided to leave the GOP altogether. In the letter he posted Monday morning, Priola said he became a Republican in 1990, enamored with Ronald Reagan’s willingness to stand up to the Soviet Union and cooperate with Democrats on immigration.


“I haven’t changed much in 30 years; but my party has,” he wrote.
Priola said he watched in horror on Jan. 6, 2021, as rioters mobbed the U.S. Capitol. He thought the insurrection would lead his fellow Republicans to distance themselves from Trump, he wrote.
Instead, Republicans turned on a handful of their own — including Vice President Mike Pence, who affirmed Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral win, and Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), who voted to impeach Trump after the riot.
“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,” Priola wrote.

He then moved on to the second way in which the GOP had disappointed him: its inaction on climate change. Republicans have repeatedly denied that humans are causing climate change and continue to block legislative efforts to fight it, even as Coloradans endure “near year-round” wildfires and “a seemingly never ending drought,” Priola wrote.

“I believe it’s immoral to saddle the next generation of Coloradans with even worse impacts,” he added.
The surprising political shifts that led to the climate bill’s passage
Colorado politicians on both sides of the aisle reacted to Priola switching parties.
Gov. Jared Polis (D) called the senator “a strong leader on climate issues,” and Senate President Steve Fenberg (D) hailed Priola as someone who “chose his constituents and Colorado’s future over partisan politics.”

Senate Minority Leader John Cooke (R) told the Colorado Sun that, given Priola’s recent voting record, he wasn’t shocked by his defection. He also dismissed its impact on Republicans’ attempt to seize control of the state Senate in November.
“This event will not change the trajectory of this election cycle, nor the outcome of this year’s fight for the state Senate,” Cooke told the paper, adding that Priola’s constituents “may explore their options for new representation.”

Kristi Burton Brown, chairwoman of the Colorado GOP, also mentioned Priola’s record of voting with Democrats on some issues, accusing him of “lying” to voters about being a Republican.

“It’s clear that Priola has selfishly chosen to make himself the story at the expense of Coloradans he was elected to fight for,” she wrote in a statement. “He will regret this decision when he is in the minority come January 2023.”
Priola doesn’t think so, saying that he remains committed to serving and fighting for his constituents rather than participating in tribal politics.
“Coloradans cannot afford for their leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism,” he wrote, adding: “Our planet and our democracy depend on it.”

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