State Sen. Kevin Priola finally became a Democrat after voting that way for years.
Senate Democrats ostensibly welcomed him with open arms as they seek to fend off a strong Republican effort to elect a Senate majority. Democrats now control the Senate by a margin of 21 to 14 with Priola’s switch.
But Priola’s days as a Democratic state senator are probably numbered as Republicans initiate a well-funded recall campaign in the new district he will represent under legislative redistricting. It is much more Republican than the one he was reelected from in 2020. And he should be recalled after masquerading as a Republican in order to be reelected.
But the warm welcome by the Senate Democratic leadership will quickly evaporate when Priola’s strong pro-life and pro-gun positions disqualify him for long term support for other offices.
Ironically, Priola figured prominently the last time Republicans elected a majority in the Colorado House of Representatives in 2010.
Priola first ran for the House in 2008 in a Democratic district he was not supposed to win. But his family has deep roots in Adams County and he doggedly walked the district, defying the Obama presidential campaign’s massive turn-out operation and winning by 51-49.
Two years later, Republicans won the Colorado House for the first time in eight years by the narrowest of margins, 33-32. Had Priola not been elected in 2008, Republicans would have fallen short of electing a House majority in 2010. He was later elected to the State Senate in 2016 and reelected in 2020.
The longer Priola served in the legislature, the more liberal he became. He voted to increase property taxes and gas taxes and, most disturbingly, for liberal drug policies.
Priola voted to reduce the penalty for possession of deadly fentanyl to just a misdemeanor from a felony resulting in thousands of fentanyl deaths that forced legislative majority Democrats to restore at least some felony charges. He supported creating so-called “safe injection sites” for drug abusers that have been disastrous public menaces in liberal cities across the nation.
Most perplexing was Priola citing stolen-election conspiracy theorists in the Republican Party as a major reason for becoming a Democrat.
Poor Priola must have been on a remote island during the Colorado Republican Primary Election in June when stolen election conspiracy theorists were soundly defeated by mainstream Republicans.
Businessman Joe O’Dea defeated State Rep. Ron Hanks who believes the Chinese infiltrated our election process, which prevented former President Donald Trump from winning Colorado in 2020. Former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson defeated the criminally indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters for secretary of state. University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl defeated Greg Lopez, who declared he would pardon Peters if he was elected governor.
Priola endorsed the incompetent, blindly partisan Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold even though Anderson has courageously confronted election conspiracy theorists across the nation.
Priola’s move to the left on fundamental economic and crime issues certainly explained his party switch but his characterization of Colorado Republicans as being beholden to stolen-election conspiracies is dead wrong.
Priola has now joined a political party that is controlled by its extremist left wing, which has no tolerance for the pro-life and pro-gun positions that Priola contends he still holds even as a Democrat.
Democratic Socialists have engaged in search-and-destroy missions against the dwindling, almost nonexistent, pro-life Democrats still in office. Ask U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, who was finally unseated this year, or U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, who barely survived a pro-choice challenge.
After Priola is recalled or resigns in the face of a recall, it is rumored he will run for Adams County commissioner or even for Congress in 2024 in the new 8th Congressional District when Republican Barb Kirkmeyer wins that seat this year.
The brutal truth for Priola is that all those votes for tax increases and soft-on-crime policies will not matter one bit for activist Democrats.
Their obsession with abortion and guns will prompt strong opposition to him in a Democratic primary for any office. Pro-life Democrats are not to be tolerated.
So as Priola settles in with his new “Democratic team,” he should heed the immortal words of the O’Jays in their 1972 hit song:
“They smile at your face while all the time they want to take your place, the backstabbers.”
Dick Wadhams is a Republican political consultant and former Colorado Republican state chairman.