DENVER — Just two days after State Sen. Kevin Priola, who until Dec. 31 represents most of Adams County in the current Senate District 25, announced he was switching his political affiliation from Republican to Democrat, two Weld County residents pulled a petition from the Secretary of State’s office to recall Priola once he is sworn in as the new representative of the heavily Republican Senate District 13 in January.
Priola’s move to the new senate seat, which includes a portion of southern Weld County, most of Greeley, and a smaller slice of Brighton in Adams County, is a result of the recently completed redistricting process.
Louisa Andersen and Jeff Sloan, both active members of the Weld County Republican Party said they never had a chance to vote for Priola as their representative, and they don’t believe the voters of Senate District 13 would have elected him had he ran for that office.
“The redistricting thing is a political mystery,” Andersen said. “Most voters don’t know how it’s affecting them and their votes.” Andersen added those who were aware of the situation with Priola taking over the senate seat by default haven’t been happy from the beginning.
“But we were willing to swallow hard and accept the fact that he may not have been our favorite and doesn’t support our Weld County values,” she said. “But now he leaves us no alternative to put up a Republican. We were denied representation entirely as Republicans of Weld County and especially Greeley.”
Senate District 13 representative by default
Priola’s status as the new representative of Senate District 13 happened by default when the redistricting commission drew him out of Senate District 25. For the past eight years Senate District 13 has been represented by former Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, a Republican out of Greeley.
Cooke is term-limited, and his seat should have been up for election this November. However, because the Colorado Constitution prohibits redistricting from drawing a sitting Senator out of office, and since Priola had two years left on his current term, he automatically became the new representative for Senate District 13, delaying a new election on that seat for two years.
But the letter “R” behind Cooke and Priola’s names is about the only thing the two had in common. While Cooke is known to hold strong conservative positions on such things as oil and gas, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), government spending, and law enforcement, Priola has made a career out of sponsoring and voting with the Democrats on myriad things including climate policy, new business regulations and numerous tax and fee increases — even openly supporting Proposition CC in 2019, which would have permanently ended taxpayer refunds of over-collected revenue under TABOR..
Most recently Priola was a co-sponsor with Democrat Julie Gonzalez on a bill that forces manufacturers of packaging materials to fund a statewide recycling program. House Bill 22-1355 “Producer Responsibility Program for Recycling, requires “producers of products that are … packaging materials and paper products sold, offered for sale, or distributed in the state” to pay annual “producer responsibility dues.” Governor Polis signed the bill into law in June.
The dues fund a program to “implement and manage a statewide program (program) that provides recycling services to covered entities in the state, which are defined as residences, businesses, schools, government buildings, and public places.”
As previously reported by Complete Colorado, the bill negatively impacts numerous industries in Weld, which is heavily agricultural.
The bill caused Priola and outgoing Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican from Sterling, to get into a heated argument on the Senate floor.
So, although his change to the Democrat party didn’t surprise many philosophically, it angered Cooke’s constituents in Weld County who say they never had the opportunity to vote for Cooke’s successor.
“Priola’s positions and voting record are totally out of touch with the people of Weld County,” Sloan said. “He is so unacceptable to most of the people of Senate District 13 that we just can’t wait another two years for the next election to take place. He is too dangerous as a Senator for this district. That’s why I decided to join my friend Louisa in giving the voters of District 13 an opportunity to elect someone that aligns more with their values.”
Recall effort backed
Advance Colorado Action is supporting the recall. According to its website Advance Colorado Action is an issue advocacy organization that “believes in smaller, more accountable government. It supports policies that increase economic opportunity and greater government transparency.”
Advance Colorado Action is a subset of Advance Colorado, which is led by Fox31 Denver political analyst and longtime political activist Michael Fields as well as former 18th Judicial District DA and KNUS radio talk show host George Brauchler. Fields, who will be the registered agent on the issue committee “Recall Priola” has previously served as executive director for Colorado Rising Action and the state director of Americans for Prosperity — Colorado.
Priola has five days to respond to the Secretary of State’s office with a statement to be included on the recall petition.
Fields said the committee needs to gather 18,291 valid signatures in 60 days following Priola’s response.
Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who Priola has endorsed for re-election since becoming a Democrat, then has 15 days to certify the petitions. If found insufficient, Recall Priola then has five days to cure any errors or insufficiencies. If found sufficient, Senate District 13 voters then have 15 days to protest the decision, but must give specific, valid grounds under the law.
Within five days of the petition being deemed sufficient, Griswold must set an election date between 30 and 60 days from the time of the sufficiency. That date would be within days of Priola being sworn in as the new Senate District 13 representative.
Fields told Complete Colorado the recall will focus on Priola’s legislative record, that proponents say does not represent the interests of voters in Senate District 13, including his sponsorship or support of:
- SB21-260, which increased the gas tax.
- HB19-1257, which would have permanently taken away TABOR refunds.
- HB21-1164, which raised property taxes.
- HB19-1263, which reduced fentanyl possession to a misdemeanor.
- SB18-040, which sought to create “safe” injection sites for drug users.
“Recalling Kevin Priola would be good for SD 13 and good for the State of Colorado. His record at the Capitol has been terrible. He voted for higher fees and taxes, to take away our TABOR refund checks, for “safe” injection sites, and to decriminalize fentanyl,” Fields said. “Voters in SD 13 deserve to decide who they want to represent them. My guess is they’ll pick someone they can actually trust and who more closely reflects their views.”
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