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Could Colorado’s Partisan Divide Lead To A 51st State?

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Political fallout from the 2013 legislative session is taking a lot of forms in the state including maybe a whole new one.

On Monday a recall petition against State Sen. Angela Giron—a Democrat who supported Colorado gun control legislation—was approved by the Colorado Secretary of State. Giron's lawyers are challenging the effort. Opponents of Democratic State Sen. John Morse are also seeking a recall election, although Morse’s lawyers are contesting petition wording. 54 county sheriffs have filed suit against the state claiming the gun laws are unconstitutional.

And then there’s the whole idea of 'North Colorado.'

Weld County Commissioners held a meeting Monday to discuss the idea of creating a 51st state with leaders of several eastern Colorado counties including Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma.

“There’s a lot of political narrative going on now in Colorado—all of it in the sense of certainly not one that’s working together, certainly not feeling that their concerns are being listened to,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway. “And they feel politically disenfranchised.”

Credit Weld County
Weld Commissioner Sean Conway

The idea of a 51st state may be far-fetched. Both the Colorado Legislature and U.S. Congress would have to approve the move. But the emotions driving the campaign are very real. Conway says there’s a growing disconnect between Colorado’s rural and urban ways of life.

“I think it’s frustrating for us to sit here and see people who don’t know where their food comes from, don’t know where the natural gas they heat their home comes from, or the gas that they put in their car comes from, yet at the same point in time, they want to impose more rules and regulations that threaten our economic lifeblood. I think that’s where the frustration is coming out of,” he said

For Conway, the proposal is a response to several laws passed during the 2013 legislative session. Those bills include three gun control measures, oil and gas regulations, and a bill that requires rural electricity companies to meet certain renewable energy standards.

According to the Northern Colorado Business Report, commissioners from the nine other counties had differing views on the idea. Conway says right now the county is trying to determine next steps that may include public forums and a ballot measure this fall for participating counties to let voters weigh in on the issue.

“This is not political theater, this is a very serious attempt being undertaken because citizens came to us and asked us to look at it,” said Conway.

And if the endeavor happens to grab the attention of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and members of the Colorado Legislature, that’s even better, according to Conway.

“If I was a leader at the state capitol, if I was the governor of the state of Colorado, the first thing I would be saying is, ‘What in the world are we doing out there that makes people feel like they’re being ignored? Why do they feel disenfranchised?’ If this discussion leads to a larger narrative on that then I think that’s very healthy,” said Conway.

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