DENVER | Colorado's secessionist "51st state" movement gained steam Wednesday as commissioners in an eighth rural county agreed to add the question to their November ballot.
The three-member Kit Carson County Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to place a referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot asking voters if they support joining other rural counties in splitting off to form a new state, tentatively called Northern Colorado.
Kit Carson is the latest Colorado county to join the protest movement that has emerged in reaction to the Democratic-controlled state legislature's aggressive liberal agenda that detractors have dubbed the "war on rural Colorado."
Organizers of the secessionist effort say they're serious, but any effort to create a new state would face long odds in Congress, which would have the final say.
Still, commissioners in Logan and Yuma counties agreed Tuesday to place the referendum on the ballot, while the Phillips County Board of County Commissioners did so late Monday. The deadline to add a measure to the November ballot is Sept. 5.
So far all the counties are located in northeastern Colorado, near the Wyoming border, but the movement could expand to the state's Western Slope. On Tuesday, Moffat County commissioners discussed putting the measure before the voters.
Moffat County is in the northwestern corner of Colorado, abutting Wyoming and Utah. There are 64 counties in Colorado, most of which are rural and conservative, but the state's population centers lie in liberal Denver and Boulder.
"If we had a governor that was actually a governor and not a mayor of Denver — of the Front Range — then this secession wouldn't be happening," said Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers in the Craig Daily Press.
Democrats, with control of both houses of the state legislature and the governor's office, have been on a roll in Colorado.
But the General Assembly came under heavy criticism this year for passing a host of left-leaning bills on issues ranging from gun control to renewable energy, leading to the first-ever recall election of two state legislators.
Democratic officials have said little about the 51st state movement, although Democratic state Rep. Dave Young pointed out at a public hearing Monday that the movement needs to consider the implications of issues such as water rights, according to the Greeley Tribune.
"If we sever from the state of Colorado, where is our water going to come from?" asked Mr. Young, who represents a portion of Weld County, one of the eight counties with the statehood issue on the ballot. "I know this is an emotional issue for people, but I really think if we're going to have this on the ballot, what we really need to have is to talk about these issues."
Jeffrey Hare, spokesman for the 51st State Initiative, said the group is forming policy committees to develop its positions on a host of issues, including water rights. The organization is planning to hold a Declaration Convention in January.
Meanwhile, Colorado liberals have mocked the effort and chalked it up to sour grapes. Alan Franklin, political director of ProgressNow Colorado, posted a fake "State of North Colorado" flag on the 51st State Initiative's Facebook page that featured pictures of a pig, two rifles, an oil derrick, and a fetus.
"Farms. Fetuses. Firearms. Fracking. Freedom!" said Mr. Franklin in a sarcastic July 29 Twitter post.
Mr. Hare said the joke illustrates the disconnect between Colorado's urban elite and its rural residents, many of whom really do support causes such as gun rights and the pro-life movement, as well as agriculture and oil-and-gas production.
"The flag was meant to mock Northern Colorado, but we kind of feel like it represents us," Mr. Hare said.
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