A failed secession attempt by 11 Colorado counties generated conversations that will make the state stronger, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said Tuesday.
Voters in six of the 11 Colorado counties voted the largely symbolic secession proposal down last month, while five counties approved.
The secession movement "really led to debates and discussions that are going to make each of your counties stronger and, I think, ultimately make the state stronger," Hickenlooper told local officials at a Colorado Counties Inc. event, the Associated Press reports.
Washington, Phillips, Yuma, Kit Carson and Cheyenne counties voted in favor of secession, while Weld, Logan, Sedgewick, Elbert and Lincoln counties rejected the 51st state question. Voters in Moffat County, the sole northwestern county involved in secession threats, also rejected secession, halting the possibility of it becoming a new panhandle to Wyoming.
The secession plan was driven by a number of new laws recently passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature, including gun control, the curbing of perceived cruel treatment of livestock, expanded regulation of oil and gas production, recreational marijuana legalization, an increase in renewable energy standards in rural areas and civil unions.
"The heart of the 51st State Initiative is simple," the backers of the measure explain on their website. "We just want to be left alone to live our lives without heavy-handed restrictions from the state capitol. Will statehood be easy? No. However, pioneers are who have made this state great. Those early miners that came for the gold rush were pioneers. The early settlers that began farming the land and built the infrastructure to enable Colorado to be an agricultural powerhouse -- they were also pioneers."
Hickenlooper, who is running for a second term as governor of Colorado, has seen his popularity slide as he signed several controversial bills into law that the Democratic legislature passed this year including universal background checks for all gun sales and transfers and a ban on high capacity magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.
The state's new gun laws resulted in the first-ever recall election in Colorado history and ouster of Senate President John Morse (D-Colo. Springs) and Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) over their support of the gun control laws. A third Colorado Democrat, Sen. Evie Hudak (Westminster), resigned last week over threats of a recall election because of her vote for stricter gun laws.
It's not the first time Hickenlooper has addressed the secession plans and the possibility of needing to listen to the state's rural communities more closely.
"When I think of Colorado it means all of our diverse communities and people," Hickenlooper said to 9News of the secession movement, prior to the vote. "I can't imagine Colorado being Colorado without the eastern plains. If this talk of a 51st state is about politics designed to divide us, it is destructive. But if it is about sending a message, then I see our responsibility to lean in and do a better job of listening."
Although the majority of the sparsely-populated counties in Colorado's northeast and northwest corners rejected the 51st state plan, the very real cultural divide between Colorado's urban centers and rural plains still remains.
"There is getting to be such a great disconnect and unfortunately it's kind of drawn a line between urban people and those on the land," Weld County resident Chuck Sylvester said to Al Jazeera before the vote.
"They don't need our vote and they've become pretty arrogant in just ram-rodding whatever they want through," Chuck's wife Roni Sylvester added.
Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, a vocal supporter of the secession movement, said he would respect the will of the county voters who rejected the plan, but that county lawmakers would "continue to look at the problems of the urban and rural divide in this state."
The prospects of secession actually occurring in any Colorado counties are slim to none. For the secession to be successful, voters in each county would have to approve of the idea. Then North Colorado statehood would have to be approved by the state legislature, the governor and the real clincher: both houses of the U.S. Congress.
The last state to successfully form a new state was West Virginia in 1863 while the nation was embroiled in the Civil War.
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Left-leaning Arizonans attempted to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/10/baja-arizona-state_n_859954.html" target="_hplink">get a measure on the ballot</a> in 2011 that would create a new bastion for liberals in the state. Though ultimately unsuccessful, the measure would have given voters a choice to decide whether to chip off Pima County from the rest of Arizona, creating another state: Baja Arizona. It's an idea that's long been discussed, but <em>The Tucson Sentinel</em> <a href="http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/070111_baja_indepedence/baja-arizonans-declare-independence-from-phoenix/" target="_hplink">reports</a> that the most recent action was spurred by a desire for greater control over local issues and discontent with proceedings at the Phoenix statehouse. "Every bill we've heard about here is either anti-abortion laws or anti-Mexican laws. These are not laws that are geared toward solving the real problems that we have," David Euchner, treasurer of <a href="http://startourstate.com/" target="_hplink">Start Our State</a>, the group behind the secession push, <a href="http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_c2787d7e-fbcb-501f-af4b-c85d4da7ac62.html" target="_hplink">told</a> the <em>Arizona Daily Star</em>.
Maine vs. Northern Massachusetts
Republican Maine State Rep. Henry Joy brought forth <a href="http://www.asmainegoes.com/content/rep-joy-proposes-plan-divide-maine-two-states" target="_hplink">legislation</a> in 2010 to divide northern and southern Maine into two autonomous states. According to Joy, the move was necessary because of a <a href="http://www.restore.org/Maine/overview.html" target="_hplink">proposal</a> that would have turned millions of acres of northern woodland into a nature preserve, leading to the forced relocation of residents in the area. While that measure never passed, Joy was apparently not keen on the prospect of being removed from his home turf. Joy's bill, which eventually <a href="http://failuremag.com/index.php/failure_analysis/article/proposal_to_divide_maine_into_2_states_fails/" target="_hplink">failed</a>, would have allowed the northern portion of the state to retain the name Maine, while the southern section would have been ordained Northern Massachusetts. Joy proposed <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/02/27/maines_split_personality/" target="_hplink">similar legislation</a> in 2005, which also failed.
Democratic Utah State Rep. <a href="http://congress.org/congressorg/bio/id/8481" target="_hplink">Neal Hendrickson</a> submitted legislation in 2008 for the <a href="http://le.utah.gov/~2008/bills/hbillint/hjr006.htm" target="_hplink">creation of a new state within Utah</a>. Hendrickson contended that "citizens in the more populated areas of northern Utah have many interests that stand in stark contrast to the interests of southern rural areas of the state, which feel they do not have the influence on state policymaking that citizens along the Wasatch Front enjoy." His bill, which he said would "provide the citizens of what is presently southern Utah increased access to their state government," didn't pass.
The Republic Of Texas
When Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2009/04/15/37587/perry-texas-secession/" target="_hplink">signed</a> onto a non-binding resolution claiming constitutional overreach of the federal government in 2009, some may have thought it was simply a symbolic display meant to show solidarity with a right-wing base disgruntled after the passage of President Barack Obama's stimulus package. A day later, however, Perry took his rhetoric to another level, implying that Texas might <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/15/gov-rick-perry-texas-coul_n_187490.html" target="_hplink">secede</a> if "Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people," by strapping his state with unsustainable taxation, spending and debt.
Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), a Republican primary candidate for governor, piggy-backed off Texas Gov. Rick Perry's secession comments last year, <a href="http://hotlineoncall.nationaljournal.com/archives/2010/07/health_care_law.php" target="_hplink">telling</a> <i>Hotline on Call</i> in a discussion about federal mandates in the health care law that states such as Tennessee might be "forced to consider separation from this government" depending on the outcome of the elections. Wamp eventually <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/governor-races/112993-rep-wamp-loses-gov-primary-to-mayor-haslam-" target="_hplink">lost</a> the gubernatorial primary to Knoxville mayor and eventual winner Bill Haslam.
In 1998, Republican Maryland State Sen. Richard Colburn <a href="http://mlis.state.md.us/1998rs/billfile/sb0564.htm" target="_hplink">filed a bill</a> that would have paved the way for the Eastern Shore of his state, as well as parts of Delaware and Virginia, to branch off into a separate entity called Delmarva. <a href="http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/012100/012158/pdf/post12feb1998.pdf" target="_hplink">Upset with regulations</a> being forged in Annapolis and passed down to the Eastern Shore, Colburn encouraged Maryland's coastal residents to work toward a referendum that could get the measure on the ballot. It never passed muster.
Lawmakers across New York have long floated secession as a potential way to rectify what they see as imbalances in the burdens of taxes and other economic factors. From <a href="http://www.nysun.com/blogs/culture-of-congestion/2008/01/secession-new-york-city-as-polis.html" target="_hplink">local proposals</a> to split New York City off into its own state, to pushes to turn <a href="http://www.ppinys.org/reports/2004/letupstate.pdf" target="_hplink">upstate New York</a> or <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/22/nyregion/22secede.html" target="_hplink">Long Island</a> into their own sovereign entities, all efforts at secession have failed.
The tiny Rhode Island enclave of Block Island made a stir in the 1980s when its residents pursued secession after <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20088188,00.html" target="_hplink">being invaded</a> by a population of moped-riding mainlanders. The state senate and supreme court initially refused to allow the island's governing body to regulate the offending mopeds, which resulted in a <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20088188,00.html" target="_hplink">successful vote</a> to declare independence from the rest of Rhode Island. Massachusetts and Connecticut <a href="http://www.projo.com/specials/century/month10/02733011.htm" target="_hplink">reportedly</a> reached out during the process in the interest of annexing the island. Weeks later, the Rhode Island legislature <a href="http://www.projo.com/specials/century/month10/02733011.htm" target="_hplink">approved a bill</a> giving Block Island regulatory control over mopeds on the island, which sufficiently appeased residents.
Republican West Virginia Delegate Larry Kump <a href="http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/briefs/x746672958/Delegate-admits-W-Va-secession-bill-a-long-shot" target="_hplink">floated a proposal</a> earlier this year to let a number of his state's panhandle counties secede and rejoin Virginia. Citing <a href="http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/01/west-virginia-legislator-hatches-plan-rejoin-virginia" target="_hplink">economic concerns</a>, Kump said his longshot legislation was an attempt to alleviate pressure brought on by the state's struggling manufacturing sector. It failed to gain support both among West Virginians and state legislators.