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What’s Ahead And Behind Colorado’s 51st State Movement

Grace Hood

Weld County commissioners wrapped up the fourth in a series of meetings Wednesday night about whether the county should pursue forming a 51st state.

The majority of meeting participants Wednesday night in Ault supported the 51st state idea, citing everything from the rural urban divide to recent gun control legislation passed by an all-Democratic state house and senate.

Compared to previous meetings though, there was more dissent.

“Not all rural Weld County residents are right wing and angry about the current climate of the state Legislature,” said Beth Danielson, who lives near Ault.

One noticeable difference at the fourth meeting were comments focusing on a sense that the political process was broken — and some soul searching among Republicans about their own party.

“If there’s a disconnect, it’s between what the voters say and what the people we elect end up doing,” said John Dudley. “Both parties are more concerned with satisfying the party then they are with satisfying the people.”

Credit Grace Hood / KUNC
Attendees at the Ault meeting voting in favor of the new state proposal.

Colorado State University Political Science Professor John Straayer says polarization has become a reality with both parties in recent years.

It’s reflected in how Colorado Democrats and Republicans vote today, sticking more closely to party lines. Straayer has analyzed voting scorecards compiled by both conservative and liberal interest groups.

"If there's a disconnect, it's between what the voters say and what the people we elect end up doing."

“Usually you would find back in 1998 and in prior years, you would find in the middle some overlap... If you fast forward to 2012, or 2010, that overlap is gone,” said Straayer.

Straayer says one reason for this has to do with the primary system, which has low voter turnout.

“It’s happened in both parties, but more so on the Republican side, the nominating process and the activists who are engaged in that have slowly been pushing the moderates out of their own party,” he said

Highlighting a sense of frustration with Colorado Republicans, Bob Grant said at Wednesday’s meeting he thinks his party needs to change.

“Folks today have to understand that to be effective we need a broader view,” he said. “A pro-life view or gun control are not the only two things that should get elected to the House of Representatives.”

Grant said he was in favor of putting the issue on the ballot for a non-binding vote in Weld County.

Ultimately, it’s up to county commissioners to decide in the coming weeks whether to put the issue on the ballot this November.

If Weld commissioners move forward, they say they will commission a study to begin looking at the economic logistics of creating a 51st state as well as a series of white papers analyzing everything from transportation to how water rights would work under 51st statehood.

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