- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2013

GREELEY, Colo. — Colorado has been described as a classic purple state, but in many ways it’s more like two states, one red and one blue, fighting to occupy — and dominate — the same territory.

That is where the 51st state movement comes in. Eleven rural counties, upset over a growing divide with the Democrat-dominated state government on guns, energy and social issues, are asking voters on the Nov. 5 ballot whether their elected officials should pursue the creation of another state carved from northern Colorado.

It sounds radical, but then again, there is nothing ordinary about the political climate in Colorado. The historic Sept. 10 recall election that brought down two Democratic state senators was only the latest salvo in the ongoing trench war between liberals in the Denver-Boulder corridor and conservatives in the rest of the state.

“The polarization in this state is more pronounced than we’ve ever seen it,” said Dick Wadhams, political strategist and former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

For proof, look no further than the Nov. 5 nonbinding ballot question. At the same time 11 counties are weighing the secession question, four liberal-minded municipalities are considering whether to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The kicker is that nobody would be terribly surprised if all the measures pass, given the state’s fractious political divide. No polls have been released on either the 51st-state proposal or anti-fracking measures.

While the anti-fracking movement has generated stiff opposition from the oil and gas industry, there has been little organized opposition to the 51st-state initiative.

At a recent debate hosted by the League of Women Voters, about two dozen opponents stood in front of the arena holding sheets of paper with messages that included “Don’t Divide Colorado.”

‘Guarded confidence’ for statehood

Meanwhile, large blue signs declaring “Send a Message: Vote Yes on 51st State” dot the farm fields and truck stops along rural highways.

“We have guarded confidence that things will go well,” said 51st State Initiative organizer Jeffrey Hare. “We know a small group of Democratic operatives are passionately opposed, and they’ve got about 15 or 20 of them writing letters to the editor.”

The biggest challenge to the campaign has come from three Greeley lawyers who argue that only citizens can advocate for a 51st state. The initiatives were placed on the ballots by votes of the county commissions.

“[We] found no statutory authority in Colorado giving the commissioners the power to advocate, investigate or initiate the creation of a 51st state,” Robert Ruyle, a lawyer who serves on the Weld Water and Sewer Board, said at the Greeley debate.

The lawyers have asked the Weld County Council, which oversees government operations, to weigh in on the issue. Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer responded that the commission, which has the ability to refer questions to the ballot, acted at the behest of constituents.

“We have that authority, and the only official act that this board has done is refer something to the ballot, which we have the authority to do,” she said.

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