GREELEY — Just a week after Senator Kevin Priola threatened to sue Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who he endorsed for reelection just a few days prior, a group formed to support the newly-minted Democrat has followed through with a lawsuit.
“Colorado Over Party” an issue committee formed on Sept. 7 to oppose Priola’s recall, and Senate District 25 resident Fredrick Sandoval are asking a Denver District Court judge to grant them a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the recall taking place against Priola in Senate District 13.
According to the 16-page petition, filed Monday morning by attorney Michael Rollin, the basis of the suit is that the signatures to recall Priola should not come from Senate District 13 but instead from Senate District 25, which is the district Priola currently represents.
The plaintiffs are suing Democrat Secretary of State Jena Griswold for her decision to allow the recall to proceed; therefore, Attorney General Democrat Phil Weiser will have to defend the recall continuing as Griswold ruled.
Michael Fields, a long-time political activist who is supporting the recall effort through his organization, Advance Colorado Action, said Priola and the Democrats know the effort is gaining momentum and are running scared.
“They are getting desperate,” Fields told Complete Colorado. “The voters of Senate District 13 should get to decide who represents them for the next two years.”
It’s not the first time Fields has called Priola and his supporters desperate. Fields Tweeted out a screenshot of a text message sent to Senate District 13 voters from Colorado Over Party over the weekend, begging them to decline to sign the recall.
The irony in the text message, recall organizers said, is Priola supporters warn people against giving out their personal information due to the risk of data mining, despite the issue committee already having the same personal information that allowed the text message to be sent.
“The Dems are really providing a compelling defense of Priola’s voting record,” Fields joked in his Tweet.
The recall started because Priola was originally elected as a Republican in 2020 to serve a four-year term in Senate District 25, which in 2020 encompassed most of Adams County. However, after new district lines were drawn, Priola was drawn out of 25 and into Senate District 13, which is made up mostly of Weld County.
The redistricting takes place every 10 years after the U.S. Census is complete. Senate District 13, which for the past eight years has been represented by former Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, is historically a solidly Republican, much more conservative district than Senate District 25, which is considered a toss-up, moderate district.
The redistricting put both men in 13, but 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.
Two voters in Senate District 13, Louisa Andersen and Jeff Sloan said they felt they had never had the chance to vote for Priola and would not have had they been given that chance, so they launched the recall campaign, with the financial support of Fields’ group.
The lawsuit asks for “immediate injunctive relief to stop the recall procedure,” because “(1) it deprives the electors of S.D. 25 their state and federal constitutional rights to participate in the recall procedure,” and “(2) because there is no constitutional or enabling legislation that would permit the electors of one senate district to participate in the recall procedure of a senator elected by and who represents the electors of another district.”
Rollin also alleges that the only people who should be allowed to participate in the recall are either “S.D. 25 electors alone, as the entire recall process may be completed before Sen. Priola becomes the S.D. 13 senator” or “the electors who reside in the area that overlaps the current S.D. 25 and the redrawn S.D. 13 because if the recall election occurs after the General Assembly reconvenes, only those electors are AND will be represented by Sen. Priola during the period of the recall procedure.”
According to the timeline posted on the Secretary of State’s website, the chance the recall election would happen before Priola is sworn in as the new representative of Senate District 25 is nearly impossible.
If all steps of the process take the full timeline allowed by law, it looks like this:
- November 8 — the date the recall organizes must submit 18,291 valid signatures.
- December 6 — the date the Secretary of State must have signatures reviewed by.
- December 11 — the date proponents must have any cured signatures submitted by.
- December 26 — the date any registered SD-13 voter must file by to challenge the validity of the recall.
- January 9, 2023 — the date Kevin Priola will be sworn in as Senate District 13 representative.
- January 25, 2023 — the earliest date the Secretary of State can set the election for.
- February 24, 2023 — the latest date the Secretary of State can set the election for.
But for the recall election to take place the Friday before Priola is sworn in on Monday, Jan. 9, it would require the Secretary of State’s office to have the signatures validated nearly a week earlier than allowed by law, and for it to take place any earlier, the time to validate signatures would have to happen even quicker. Considering the signatures are due on election day, it complicates an already full schedule through the end of the year for the Secretary of State’s office because of constitutional deadlines to certify the general election and three legal holidays in between (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day).
The petition for the injunction focuses on Senate District 25 constituents, claiming that they have a constitutional right to representation, despite that Priola will remain their representative only until he is sworn in to represent Senate District 13. At the same time, the winner of the current Senate District 25 race will take over for Priola in that district.
Colorado Over Party and Sandoval want the court to require recall organizers to wait until after Priola is sworn in on Jan. 9, 2023 to continue the campaign.
“The court should enter a (temporary restraining order) to maintain the status quo because irreparable harm will result absent immediate relief,” the lawsuit reads. “Subsequently, the court should enter a preliminary injunction barring the Secretary of State from taking or permitting any further action in furtherance of the recall of Sen. Priola until, if ever, after the General Assembly reconvenes on January 9, 2023.”
But Fields said Griswold was right in her initial ruling.
“The recall should take place in the district he will be representing when the recall election occurs,” Fields said, confident that the only timeline that works is the one after Priola takes over in Senate District 13.
Our unofficial motto at Complete Colorado is “Always free, never fake, ” but annoyingly enough, our reporters, columnists and staff all want to be paid in actual US dollars rather than our preferred currency of pats on the back and a muttered kind word. Fact is that there’s an entire staff working every day to bring you the most timely and relevant political news (updated twice daily) from around the state on Complete’s main page aggregator, as well as top-notch original reporting and commentary on Page Two.
CLICK HERE TO LADLE A LITTLE GRAVY ON THE CREW AT COMPLETE COLORADO. You’ll be giving to the Independence Institute, the not-for-profit publisher of Complete Colorado, which makes your donation tax deductible. But rest assured that your giving will go specifically to the Complete Colorado news operation. Thanks for being a Complete Colorado reader, keep coming back.