Se­ces­sion­ists not giv­ing up on drive to form 51st state

Note sup­port in 5 coun­ties

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON — Weld (Colo.) County Com­mis­sioner Sean Conway

DEN­VER | The se­ces­sion­ist move­ment in Colorado is re­assess­ing — but not aban­don­ing — its dream of form­ing a 51st state af­ter vot­ers in six of 11 ru­ral coun­ties re­jected the pro­posal Tues­day.

“I think what hap­pened last night is that we had a rag­ing camp­fire, we had cold wa­ter thrown on it, but those coals are still red hot,” Weld County Com­mis­sioner Sean Conway said Wed­nes­day.

Sup­port­ers of the 51st state mea­sure launched their cam­paign in July in re­ac­tion to what they saw as a “war on ru­ral Colorado,” fol­low­ing the Demo­cratic state Leg­is­la­ture’s pas­sage of bills re­strict­ing ac­cess to firearms and am­mu­ni­tion and dou­bling the re­new­able-en­ergy man­date on ru­ral ar­eas.

Vot­ers in five of the 11 coun­ties did ap­prove the res­o­lu­tion, which asked whether res­i­dents wanted to pur­sue the idea of cre­at­ing a 51st state. On the plus side, the five coun­ties are con­tigu­ous and lo­cated in the north­east cor­ner of the state.

On the mi­nus side, one of the coun­ties vot­ing against the mea­sure was Weld County, the largest and most pros­per­ous of the ju­ris­dic­tions con­sid­er­ing the for­ma­tion of a new state. With­out Weld and the other five coun­ties that voted no, the 51st state drops from more than 300,000 to fewer than 25,000 res­i­dents.

Or­ga­niz­ers are con­tin­u­ing to mine sup­port for the ef­fort from the state’s other ru­ral coun­ties, but in the mean­time, they’re plan­ning to make a push for in­creased rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the state Leg­is­la­ture when it con­venes in Jan­uary.

At the top of their to-do list is ral­ly­ing be­hind the so-called Phillips County ini­tia­tive, which calls for the state Se­nate to in­clude one se­na­tor from each of Colorado’s 64 coun­ties, in­stead of al­lo­cat­ing seats by pop­u­la­tion.

Jef­frey Hare, a leader of the 51st State Ini­tia­tive, said Colorado Coun­ties In­cor­po­rated has al­ready agreed to sup­port the pro­posal to divvy up state Se­nate seats by county.

“We’re look­ing at the glass half full in­stead of half empty,” said Mr. Hare. “We’ve gone from 0 per­cent sup­port in July to get­ting five coun­ties to sup­port this. That’s a pretty good suc­cess rate in four months.”

He chalked up the splin­tered elec­tion re­sults to the short timetable. “Time was work­ing against us from the be­gin­ning,” said Mr. Hare. “It turns out a four-month win­dow was too much of an ob­sta­cle in terms of ed­u­cat­ing vot­ers and get­ting our mes­sage out.”

The call for carv­ing out a brand-new state may have also been a bit too dras­tic for some Coloradans. “I heard from vot­ers in Weld County who said, ‘You know, Sean, I just couldn’t go there,’” said Mr. Conway.

As an elected com­mis­sioner, Mr. Conway said he will con­tinue to look for ways to pro­mote the con­cerns of ru­ral Colorado while re­spect­ing the will of Weld County res­i­dents, who voted 56 to 44 per­cent against the 51st state res­o­lu­tion.

“The so­lu­tion we were propos­ing was not the so­lu­tion they wanted to the prob­lem,” he said. “But even if the ini­tia­tive passed all 11 coun­ties, the prob­lem still ex­ists. So what the vot­ers are telling us is to go back to the draw­ing board and find a dif­fer­ent so­lu­tion.”

Mr. Hare said a de­ci­sion about the next step will be made af­ter meet­ings with the move­ment’s stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing res­i­dents of the coun­ties that voted in fa­vor of the res­o­lu­tion.

“We have kind of a man­date, so the ques­tion is, do we have enough of a man­date to pro­ceed, or do we want to take a pause and wait for 2014?” said Mr. Hare.

How­ever, the move­ment’s or­ga­niz­ers de­cide to pro­ceed, they agree on one thing: The ur­ban-ru­ral dis­con­nect driv­ing the push for a 51st state hasn’t gone away.

“I be­lieve this is the be­gin­ning of the dis­cus­sion, not the end of the dis­cus­sion,” said Mr. Conway.

“I think what hap­pened last night is that we had a rag­ing camp­fire, we had cold wa­ter thrown on it, but those coals are

still red hot.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.