The recall effort of new Democratic Sen. Kevin Priola, who switched parties last week, will need to go through his new district, the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office declared Monday.
Colorado recently redrew its legislative maps following the 2020 census and this is the first election cycle under those new maps. Senate District 13, which Priola is set to represent, stretches from east Henderson in Adams County north along U.S. 85 into Greeley.
The ruling potentially gives recall advocates an easier path to their goal than the old district, which tended to slightly favor Democrats, despite the previously Republican Priola’s victories there.
Voters in the new district have on average given Republican candidates about a plus-four percentage-point margin over eight recent elections, according to nonpartisan redistricting staff. However, its 85,000 registered voters are split nearly dead even between Republicans and Democrats, at 22,602 and 22,544 apiece, respectively, though a plurality of voters there are nonpartisan.
The Secretary of State’s Office did base the signature threshold to force a vote on Priola’s old district. That threshold, 18,291 valid signatures, is 25% of the total votes cast in his last election. The determination on the signature threshold and where they’d need to be gathered was made in consultation with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, according to a news release.
The special election would cost an estimated $200,000.
Priola disagreed with the decision for the petition to run through the new district. He said the decision should be left up to his current constituents.
Advance Colorado Action senior adviser Michael Fields, the registered agent for the recall committee, said the decision for the recall to happen in the new district is “good news” for voters who will get a chance to decide their state senator for the next two years.
“Replacing Priola with a state senator who will keep taxes and fees low and help make our state safer is worth it,” Fields said of the cost.
Priola announced Aug. 22 that he had switched political parties. He cited the Republican Party’s lack of outrage over the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and its disinterest in fighting climate change as chief factors behind the decision. However, Priola said he wouldn’t change his votes based on his new affiliation, specifically around his anti-abortion and pro-gun-rights views.
His switch pads Democrats’ chances of holding onto the state Senate in 2022 — if he’s not recalled. Republicans now need to flip four seats to gain control of the chamber. Priola is term-limited and not on the November ballot. Any recall election would be after the Nov. 8 general election.
It may be weeks until a petition format is approved for circulation, and then backers would have 60 days to gather signatures for it.
Activists announced their intent to recall Priola days after his announcement. Republican Party Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said he “lied to voters and broke the trust of those who elected him.”
Priola, meanwhile, isn’t shying from his new party. On Saturday, he attended a re-election fundraiser for Democratic Adams County Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio, where he joined other legislative Democrats in speaking to the crowd.
“Thank you all so much for the warm welcome,” Priola told the assembled Democrats and supporters. “It feels like home, and I should have done this years ago.”
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