Briefline

Lawsuit seeks to stop recall election of state Sen. Priola following party switch

By: - September 12, 2022 1:04 pm
Sens. Winter and Priola

Sens. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Kevin Priola, formerly Republican but now a Democrat from Henderson, stand at the well in the Colorado Senate on May 9, 2022. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)

A political committee filed a lawsuit against the secretary of state’s office rebuking the decision to hold state Sen. Kevin Priola’s recall election in his newly-drawn, Republican-leaning district. 

Priola announced he would switch his affiliation from Republican to Democrat in August, which has since led to a Republican-led effort to launch a recall election. State election officials determined the recall election would happen in Republican-leaning Senate District 13, which he will represent beginning next year due to a recent redistricting process. That district runs along U.S. 85 from Henderson into Greeley, while Priola currently represents Senate District 25, which is more of a tossup district based in Denver’s northeast suburbs. 

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The lawsuit, filed in Denver District Court Monday morning, emphasized that Priola does not represent Senate District 13 until Jan. 9, 2023, so if a recall election were to occur before then, it should be under his current constituents in Senate District 25. It argues that electors in the new district “have no legal right” to recall a senator who was elected by and represents a different electorate, and if the new district wants to recall Priola, it should be able to do so after Jan. 9. 

Political committee Colorado Over Party filed the lawsuit — with its registered purpose listed solely as opposing Priola’s recall election — along with District 25 voter Fredrick Sandoval. The lawsuit asks for “temporary and preliminary injunctive relief barring the Secretary from taking or permitting any further action in furtherance of the recall of Sen. Priola until, if ever, after the General Assembly reconvenes on January 9, 2023.” It argues that the only two options in line with Colorado law would be an election held in Senate District 25 before Jan. 9 or one held in Senate District 13 after Jan. 9. 

“The special-interest driven recall effort is not only a waste of time and taxpayer dollars, it is a folly built on a faulty premise,” Colorado Over Party spokesperson Curtis Hubbard said in an email. “Just like a company cannot recall a product it didn’t produce, voters cannot recall a Senator who doesn’t represent them. Sen. Priola represents the voters of Senate District 25 and cannot be recalled by voters who do not live in his current district.”

Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold authorized the circulation of recall petitions in Senate District 13 on Friday and determined 18,291 signatures are required to get a recall question on a ballot. The recall committee has 60 days to gather and submit signatures. The committee is registered under Michael Fields, the senior adviser for the conservative nonprofit Advance Colorado Action. 

Democrats currently control both chambers of the Colorado Legislature, and Republicans are hoping to take control of the Senate the November election. Before Priola’s party switch, Republicans only needed to flip three seats to win the Senate majority. Holding the recall election in Senate District 13 would likely make it easier for Republicans to win that majority.

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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 5:10 p.m., Aug. 12, 2022, to include a statement from Colorado Over Party spokesperson Curtis Hubbard.

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Lindsey Toomer
Lindsey Toomer

Lindsey Toomer covers politics, social justice and other stories for Newsline. She formerly reported on city government at the Denver Gazette and on Colorado mountain town government, education and environment at the Summit Daily News. Toomer graduated from the Pennsylvania State University, where she also served as managing editor of The Daily Collegian, with degrees in journalism and global studies.

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