(The Center Square) - Colorado State Senator Kevin Priola is flipping his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, the lawmaker announced Monday.
Priola, who represents Senate District 25 in Adams County, cited the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and 2020 election conspiracies as reasons for switching parties in a letter announcing 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," Priola said in the letter.
Priola also criticized the Republican Party's stance on climate change and environmental regulation.
"Today, my Republican colleagues would rather deny the existence of human-caused climate change than take action," he said. "I increasingly believe this inaction is counter to our responsibility as political leaders."
The senator from Henderson said he won't change how he votes on bills but that "there is too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge."
"Simply put, we need Democrats in charge because our planet and our democracy depend on it," Priola said.
Priola notably sponsored legislation during the 2019 session that put Proposition CC on the ballot, which asked voters to allow the state to retain excess revenue instead of giving refunds back to taxpayers under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). Voters defeated the measure.
During the last legislative session, Priola sponsored a bill with Democrats to ban flavored nicotine and tobacco products, but the legislation failed.
Priola's move comes as Colorado Republicans are amid a campaign season in which they could retake control of the state Senate. Democrats currently control 20 of the 35 chamber seats. There are 17 total open seats for the November election, with eight of those seats open with no incumbent running, according to Ballotpedia.
Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said in a statement that Priola "finally made the move to the party he's consistently voted with."
"After lying to his constituents and routinely voting for tax increases that hurt the everyday working families of his district, he's now admitted his true affiliation: a pro tax-increase Democrat," she said.
Senate Minority Leader John Cooke, R-Greeley, suggested in a statement that Priola's move wasn't surprising.
"For the last several sessions he voted with the Democrats and championed their legislative causes," Cooke said. "This event will not change the trajectory of this election cycle, nor the outcome of this year's fight for the state Senate."
"As for Sen. Priola, his new district will likely not be happy with this announcement and may explore their options for new representation," he added.
Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said Priola "chose his constituents and Colorado's future over partisan politics."
"Senator Priola has made it clear that the people of Colorado deserve leaders who will boldly take action against the most serious threats facing our country today," he added.