Northeastern Colorado Is Getting Ready to Secede

With Gandhi as a guide, several Colorado counties are looking to become a new state.

This Aug. 25, 2009 photo shows corn growing around a natural gas well on a farm near Mead, Colo. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which produces oil and gas from 4,600 wells in the county. Many are on fields planted with feed corn, which also is being used to produce ethanol for gasoline locally. The confluence of different interests has made Weld County a frequent stop for members of Congress interested in how climate legislation is playing outside of Washington. 
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Aug. 20, 2013, 8:14 a.m.

In his last speech to the United States Sen­ate, fu­ture short-lived Pres­id­ent of the Con­fed­er­ate States of Amer­ica Jef­fer­son Dav­is, D-Miss., held up the hon­or of se­ces­sion. “This is done, not in hos­til­ity to oth­ers; not to in­jure any sec­tion of the coun­try, not even for our own pe­cu­ni­ary be­ne­fit,” Dav­is de­clared in Janu­ary 1861, “but from the high and sol­emn motive of de­fend­ing and pro­tect­ing the rights we in­her­ited, and which it is our duty to trans­mit un­shorn to our chil­dren.”

Nearly a dozen counties in north­east­ern Col­or­ado are now ready to take on that high and sol­emn motive.

On Monday, the city com­mis­sion­ers of Col­or­ado’s Weld and Phil­lips counties voted to ap­prove a bal­lot meas­ure ask­ing voters if they want to se­cede from Col­or­ado and cre­ate a 51st state. The idea to split from Col­or­ado, which began to take root at a June con­fer­ence, could in­clude sev­er­al oth­er counties in the north of the state. Three oth­er counties have already ap­proved the bal­lot ques­tion, and three more will vote on the is­sue this week.

After the vote, Weld County Com­mis­sion­er Sean Con­way quoted Ma­hatma Gandhi: “First they ig­nore you, then they ri­dicule you, then they fight for you, and then you win.” Com­mis­sion Chair­man Bill Gar­cia, echoed a more re­cent lead­er be­fore vot­ing: “Si se puede — yes, we can.” The Weld com­mis­sion­ers were un­an­im­ous in their de­cision to ap­prove the bal­lot meas­ure.

But why se­cede? Sean Con­way got at this in a June in­ter­view on Dev­il’s Ad­voc­ate with Jon Cal­dara on Col­or­ado Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion:

In the in­ter­view, Con­way cited a gen­er­al lack of sup­port from the “ex­tremely tone-deaf” state gov­ern­ment in Den­ver, and the stark dif­fer­ences between the more ag­ri­cul­tur­al north­east­ern Col­or­ado and the “urb­an elect­or­ate.” But the biggest is­sue, for Con­way at least, is en­ergy:

The oil and gas thing, is what really, I think, has been set­ting us off. Al­though the gov­ernor has done some good things in terms of oil and gas, he hasn’t, I think, ceded to the en­vir­on­ment­al ex­trem­ists out there “¦ our very way of life is un­der at­tack.

The latest warn­ing call is a pos­sible frack­ing ban that has made it onto sev­er­al bal­lots this year in the state. But those bans haven’t really got­ten sup­port from the state gov­ern­ment, with the state join­ing a suit against a ban that’s already in ef­fect in Ju­ly and Gov. John Hick­en­loop­er (D) say­ing in Feb­ru­ary, “We’ve demon­strated again and again [that hy­draul­ic frac­tur­ing] can be done safely,” and that “we have no choice” but to sue any city and county that passes a ban. But the gov­ernor has been open to at least some com­prom­ise since then.

There’s also, of course, some polit­ic­al is­sue here. Weld and Phil­lips counties voted for Mitt Rom­ney in 2012 by a healthy mar­gin, while the state went for Obama 51 per­cent to 46 per­cent. The three counties that have already ap­proved the se­ces­sion bal­lot meas­ure and the three that will vote on it this week were also Rom­ney ter­rit­ory.

“I know ini­tially you look at this and you say, ‘Se­ces­sion? Cre­at­ing your own new state? That kind of tends to be a little bit out there,’” Con­way said. But he has some ideas for how to get sup­port, par­tic­u­larly from Con­gress, which would have to sign off on a new state.

His big idea? Pu­erto Rico. If Pu­erto Rico (or, Wash­ing­ton D.C.) gets ad­mit­ted as a new state, that’s a likely boost for Demo­crats. “You can al­most make the ar­gu­ment that you’re al­low­ing two states in so you don’t dis­rupt the per­cent­ages in terms of the United States Sen­ate or House.” So, really, for­get 51 states. Think 52.

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