DENVER — A committee led by Republican political operative Michael Fields filed paperwork Wednesday to start an effort to recall state Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson, who announced Monday he had switched from the Republican party to caucus with the majority Democrats.
Fields, who is the senior adviser for political nonprofit Advance Colorado Action, announced the filing Wednesday afternoon. He said in a news release the recall committee includes Louisa Andersen, who previously lost a bid for the Greeley City Council, and Jeff Sloan, who briefly ran for the Colorado House District 50 seat in 2018.
Both live in what will become Senate District 13 in January, which Priola will represent. He currently represents Senate District 25.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office confirmed a petition format request had been filed on Wednesday. The office said it has three business days to determine a cost estimate for a recall. Then, the office would create a petition format, send it to the recall requesters, who would then have to submit their own format, which the Department of State would have a week to approve.
If it is approved, Priola would have a chance to provide a rebuttal. Once the department approves the final format, it would be approved for circulation, and proponents would have 60 days to gather enough valid signatures.
Leading right-wing political activists and other Republicans in Colorado have been clamoring for a recall of Priola, a Republican who has voted for both Republican and Democratic bills over his 13 years in the House and Senate, since he announced his party switch on Monday morning.
He said of his decision: “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.”
“There is too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge,” Priola added.
In response, Senate Minority Leader John Cooke, R-Greeley, said that Priola’s “new district will likely not be happy with this announcement and may explore their options for new representation.”
Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown called Priola a liar in a statement and said he had “selfishly chosen to make himself the story at the expense of Coloradans he was elected to fight for.”
Burton Brown also said Priola would “regret this decision” if Republicans can take hold of the state Senate in this November’s election. According to the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission, the new Senate District 13 leans Republican over a survey of eight statewide elections since 2016, meaning Priola’s new district would be more heavily Republican.
Priola said that Republicans’ lack of any true action to stop climate change was one of the reasons he decided to switch parties. But he also said in his letter he would stick to his current manner of voting on legislation: “I just simply will now cast my votes with a D next to my name instead of an R.”
Priola is term limited after 2024 and is not up for reelection this year. It’s not clear exactly how the recall will play out because he currently represents one district and will represent a different one come January after redistricting.
The Department of State is also working with the Attorney General's Office to "determine recall regulations given re-apportionment," a spokesperson said.
Fields called Priola’s record as a legislator, where he has served since 2009, “terrible.”
“Voters in SD 13 deserve to decide who they want to represent them,” Fields said in a statement. “My guess is they’ll pick someone they can actually trust and who more closely reflects their views.”
Fields claimed in a news release that the recall effort would have to collect 18,291 valid signatures should the petition be approved in order to move forward to an actual recall election. The Secretary of State’s Office said it was checking on the number of signatures that would need to be collected.
Burton Brown said in a statement Wednesday that “the Colorado GOP fully stands with the citizens working to recall Kevin Priola.”
Democrats from the Senate and House earlier this week congratulated and welcomed Priola into their party. Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said he had spoken for months with Priola about the potential decision. He said he knew well there would be issues on which he and Priola do not agree.
“I assured him that our party is a big tent. He doesn’t have to agree with our Democratic agenda on everything,” Fenberg told Denver7. “…If I were the Republican Party, I would look inward and say, ‘What did we do wrong? How are we pushing people like Kevin Priola out of our party?”
In a new statement on Wednesday, Fenberg said the Democrats would stand by Priola and support him should a recall effort be approved. He also called the move one by Republicans "to waste taxpayer dollars trying to do what they can't do at the ballot box."
"It's disappointing, but not surprising, that extreme MAGA Republicans are seeking to cancel Senator Priola — who they had no problem with a mere 48 hours ago — simply for exercising his freedom of speech by refusing to follow along with their dangerous, climate change denying, election conspiracy theory driven agenda," Fenberg said in a statement. "Recalls in Colorado are expensive, but important tools eant to allow voters to remove politicians guilty of serious offenses like corruption or malfeasance, not to get revenge on lawmakers they disagree with."
Democrats currently hold 21 of 35 Senate seats after Priola’s switch. Seventeen of the 35 seats, not including Priola’s, are up for election in November, and Republicans would need to win 12 of them in order to take back hold of the Senate.