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April 02, 2024 11:25 AM UTC

Kevin Priola Is No Pretendocrat On Climate Change

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  • by: Colorado Pols
Sen. Kevin Priola (RD).

We wrote last month about legislation introduced in the Colorado Senate that would have ended new permitting for oil and gas drilling by 2030, seized upon by the industry and their political supporters who spent vastly more money running ads warning the public about the supposed economic terrors that would befall the state than proponents would ever have had to promote the bill. That’s mostly because, as a 9NEWS fact-check explained in mid-March, Senate Bill 24-159 was very unlikely to pass and therefore served mostly as a springboard for the same old shopworn misinformation such as the industry’s wildly overestimated economic impact in Colorado–the basis of the industry’s doom-and-gloom alarmism in ads that saturated local media until the bill’s death last week in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

But what we didn’t mention earlier, and Colorado Public Radio’s Sam Brasch reports today, was the role of born-again Democratic Sen. Kevin Priola in sponsoring this legislation, one of Priola’s boldest initiatives yet after switching parties in 2022 citing the January 6th insurrection and the Republican Party’s denial on the issue of climate change:

[T]he recent legislative fight…marks the latest chapter in Priola’s political evolution from a pro-business Republican into one of the state’s leading climate hawks. Unable to run for reelection — Priola is term-limited in 2025 — the state Capitol veteran has embraced a recent shift among some of the world’s top climate scientists and advocates, who have increasingly called for bans and other policies to prevent further fossil fuel extraction.

Priola hopes his political journey will offer clarity to future policymakers — and lead them to reignite the fight in future legislative sessions…

[E]nvironmental and climate politics put him increasingly out of step with his Republican colleagues, but Priola maintained his support for gun rights and opposed efforts to expand abortion access.

The strain, however, reached a breaking point in the summer of 2022. Priola announced his decision to leave the Republican Party and become a Democrat, citing his former party’s ongoing efforts to discredit the 2020 election results and its unwillingness to address climate change.

Priola’s party switch in 2022 was met with fury from fellow Republicans who promptly began a recall campaign organized by Republican multitool operative Michael Fields–a campaign that quickly lost momentum and sputtered out entirely after Colorado Democrats rolled to another sweeping victory in the November 2022 elections. Priola’s reception in the Democratic “big tent” has not been without friction, since the same Catholic faith that makes Priola an ally on issues like the death penalty and stewardship of the environment prevents Priola from voting with the Democratic majority on the issue of abortion rights.

But today, especially with Priola doing his best to go out in a blaze of glory on climate change, Priola’s former fellow Republicans are the ones seething. Whether Priola has future offices in mind after he leaves the State Senate is an open question, but in Colorado that future is definitely more plausible as a Democrat. On this defining issue, Priola has more than made good on his party switch.

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