DENVER — Sen. Kevin Priola has won the first legal skirmish in an attempt to recall him from office. The newly minted Democrat on Monday was granted a temporary injunction against the effort moving forward, a decision the recall organizers say they will appeal.
Priola was originally elected in Senate District 25 as a Republican but jumped ship recently, citing discontent with the Republican party over election conspiracy claims and what he claims is a failure to act on climate change. Priola has claimed that he is being recalled by special interest groups for personal and political retribution.
However, one of the petitioners, Jeff Sloan, has told Complete Colorado previously that the recall was about much more.
Sloan said the redrawing of senate districts, which takes place every 10 years after the U.S. Census is complete, drew Priola out of 25, which is considered to be a toss-up, moderate district and into Senate District 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.
“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.
Priola has long sided with the Democrats on many issues, usually being the lone Republican vote on what Democrats would then then hail as bi-partisan bills. He often sparred with fellow Republicans on the Senate floor.
Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Attorney General Phil Weiser sided with the recall petitioners by citing the Colorado Constitution which says, “Every elective public officer of the state of Colorado may be recalled from office at any time by the registered electors entitled to vote for a successor of such incumbent through the procedure and in the manner herein provide for… .” Griswold and Weiser argued that because a recall election would only be held following the reconvening of the General Assembly on January 9, 2023, only voters from Senate District 13 will be “entitled to vote for a successor” to Priola.
In her Oct. 10 ruling, Denver District Court Judge Marie Avery Moses said complaints about Priola appear to be “related to their dissatisfaction with the redistricting process by which they will acquire a holdover state senator that was elected by voters from a different district.”
However, she said the recall should be held in the district he was elected to represent two years ago, or the district he’ll represent when he is sworn into office on January 9th, adding that according to an expedited timeline, Priola would not necessarily get a full term in the legislature.
“The Secretary’s approval of the Recall Petition allowed a shift in the recall right to constituents of a neighboring district whom Sen. Priola does not currently represent,” Moses wrote in her decision.
Michael Fields, Director of Advance Colorado Action, which is supporting the recall effort, said petitioners have already collected more than 15,000 valid signatures and will continue to collect signatures as they appeal this decision. The group needs 18,291 valid signatures for the recall to move forward.
“Coloradans have a constitutional right to recall our elected officials. Throughout this process, we have simply followed the instructions set out by the Secretary of State,” Fields said.
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