GREELEY — After getting word from the Secretary of State’s office that organizers of a recall against Sen. Kevin Priola can officially begin gathering signatures, an office in downtown Greeley opened Friday and the field organizer for the signature gathering phase began dropping off petitions to volunteer circulators.
Jeff Sloan, who is one of two Senate District 13 residents named as proponents on the Priola recall — the other being Louisa Anderson — said he was ready with petitions in hand, delivering them to the numerous people who have already stepped up to collect signatures against the Adams County Democrat.
Priola was originally elected in Senate District 25 as a Republican but a couple of weeks ago jumped ship, citing discontent with the Republican party over election conspiracy claims and failure to act on climate change. Despite Priola’s claims that he is being recalled by “special interest groups for personal and political retribution,” Sloan said the recall was about much more.
Sloan was referring to the redrawing of of senate districts, which takes place every 10 years after the U.S. Census is complete. The recently completed redistricting drew Priola out of 25, which is considered a toss-up, moderate district and into 13, which is historically a solidly red, much more conservative district that for the past eight years has been represented by former Weld County Sheriff John Cooke.
Although both men are now in 13, Cooke is term limited, and Priola is in the middle of a term. Since the state Constitution does not allow redistricting to draw a legislator out of office, Priola is set to become the new Senate District 13 representative by default when the state legislature convenes in January 2023.
Proponents want a say in representation
“We want to pick our own senator,” Sloan said, adding that had Priola not changed political affiliation just months before an election where Republicans have a good shot at taking back a majority in the Senate, the recall may not have been necessary.
Anderson echoed those thoughts when the recall was first announced, telling Complete Colorado that despite Republicans in 13 not being especially pleased with Priola’s voting record, most were willing to swallow that and move forward with Priola for his final two years.
But switching parties just before becoming the senator in an area that is proudly conservative was the final straw and Anderson and Sloan felt cheated that they didn’t get to vote for whom they wanted to represent their values.
“The redistricting commission decided for those of us here in Weld County who we were going to be represented by,” Sloan said. “We never voted for this character. We here in Senate District 13 would have never voted for this guy, especially one so out of touch with Weld County.”
The recall campaign will use both volunteer and paid circulators, Sloan said. The money to support the recall is coming by way of Advance Colorado Action, which executive director Michael Fields said has already raised $130,000 for the effort.
It’s Fields’ organization that Priola continues to blame for the recall. Priola also disagrees with Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s ruling — who just days after changing parties, he publicly endorsed — that the signatures will come from 13, something Fields took a swipe at.
“Kevin Priola is totally out-of-step with the voters of Senate District 13,” Fields said, “which is why there is a real grassroots enthusiasm for this recall effort. Priola even threatened to sue to avoid having to face the voters of his new district. If Priola doesn’t want them, they shouldn’t want him.
“We look forward to getting the necessary signatures to let voters decide who they want to represent them for the next two years.”
Clock ticking on signature gathering
Sloan and his group have 60 days to gather 18,291 valid signatures from registered voters in 13, but as with all signature-gathering processes, they will work collect more to make sure they have the required number needed. Circulators do not need to live in 13.
A special election that will happen after Priola is sworn into office in January is estimated to cost just under $200,000.
On the petition, Sloan and Andersen cite Priola’s voting record as grounds for the recall, while Priola claims his voting record is misrepresented and he points fingers at Fields and his organization as having “deep pockets,” and being “deceptive.”
“These hyper-partisan political insiders are wasting hundreds of thousands of your taxpayer money on a special election to punish me for serving you as an independent voice,” Priola said. “Get the facts about special interests that fear the independence of my voice in the legislature.”
Sloan said that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If Priola truly wanted to be an independent, he would have unaffiliated instead of becoming a Democrat.
“I have been working hard to get rid of the Democrat in House District 50 that was duly elected,” Sloan said about current HD 50 Rep. Mary Young, D-Greeley. “I don’t want to be represented by a Democrat in Senate District 13 that I didn’t even get a voice in electing.”
Sloan said there will be several signing opportunities planned, including Trapper Days in Fort Lupton on Saturday and Heritage Day in Evans on Sept. 17. Anyone wishing to help with the recall effort can email Sloan at email@example.com. Additionally, more information can be found at the Facebook page: RecallPriola2022
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