A Republican legislator from Colorado has switched parties, joining the Democratic Party due to claims of election fraud in 2020 and the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol.
State Sen. Kevin Priola, a moderate lawmaker, announced that he could no longer support the GOP, which he claimed was responsible for ignoring threats to democracy and the climate crisis. He said he watched the events of Jan. 6 “with horror” and felt “dismay” that anti-Trump Republicans like Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) were “met with ridicule and threats.”
“I cannot continue to be a part of a political party that is okay with a violent attempt to overturn a free and fair election and continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen,” Priola said in a statement announcing his swapping of parties.
Priola also said that the Republican Party’s stance on climate change was a reason for his leaving.
“Today, my Republican colleagues would rather deny the existence of human-caused climate change than take action … my Republican colleagues consistently, and proudly, seek to impede progress on any reasonable climate measure the legislature has undertaken — and I can’t, in good conscience, be silent about that,” Priola said.
Although Priola will now be working with Democrats, he claimed that he will not change the way he votes on legislation. His positions on abortion, gun rights and school choice “run counter to the Democratic Party platform.”
Axios reported that “Priola has previously voted against abortion rights and efforts to regulate guns. … Earlier this year, he led an effort to strengthen election security in Colorado.”
In spite of this, with the loss of a lawmaker in their conference, the Colorado GOP will face challenges to recapture the state Senate majority that Democrats currently hold by four seats. Priola intends to campaign for Democrats to retain control of the government in November.
“Even if there will continue to be issues that I disagree with the Democratic Party on, there is too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge,” Priola said. “Coloradans cannot afford their leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism. Simply put, we need Democrats in charge because our planet and our democracy depend on it.”
Democrats attempted to defeat Priola in 2020, but he was quickly welcomed into their fold.
“We are a broad tent party, always seeking good ideas from the left and right to move CO forward. Senator Priola is a strong leader on climate issues & will hopefully be even more effective on the Democratic side of the aisle,” Democratic Governor Jared Polis said in a statement.
Colorado GOP chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown, however, condemned Priola in a Twitter post, saying he “finally made the move to the party he’s consistently voted with.”
“After lying to his constituents, routinely voting for tax increases, & hurting the working families of his district, he’s now admitted his true affiliation: a pro tax-increase Democrat,” Brown said, adding, “He will regret this decision when he’s in the minority come January 2023.”
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