5 Failed Candidates for the 51st State
By Harold Maass
Politicians in ten northeastern Colorado counties are flirting with a proposal to break away and form their own state — North Colorado.
Twenty commissioners from Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Weld, and Yuma counties have rallied behind the idea. They say their rural oasis is getting pushed around by the state's increasingly dominant urban lawmakers, who this year passed a host of measures the would-be secessionists don't like, including higher renewable energy standards for rural electric co-ops, civil unions for gay couples, and tough new gun-control laws.
"I think the city people kind of feel like country people are just hicks," Washington County farmer John Lueth told the Denver Post. "We just don't have that much of a voice."
Unfortunately for North Colorado's would-be founding fathers, not enough people feel that way to give the scheme much of a chance. The plan would need the approval of voters, the state General Assembly, and the U.S. Congress, none of which would be expected to go along.
But the rebels of North Colorado are in good company. No state has successfully seceded since West Virginia separated from Virginia in 1863 — but plenty of places have tried. In 1969, for example, writer Norman Mailer ran in a Democratic mayoral primary in New York City on a platform calling for transforming the city into a new state. Here are four of the most recent cases where locals fed up with the powers that be made failed attempts to break away and form the nation's 51st state:
1. Baja Arizona
Many liberals in southern Arizona want nothing to do with the conservatives who run the state government in Phoenix. Last year, left-leaning Arizonans proposed a ballot measure to peel off Pima County to form a new state, Baja Arizona, in protest of recent decisions to reduce funding for schools and crack down on illegal immigrants. They weren't successful, but activists did hold a July 4 celebration declaring their independence and pledging allegiance to the U.S. as the 51st state.
2. Austin, Texas
Petitions at WhiteHouse.gov have been filed from every state proposing secession from the union. The most popular has been the one from Texas — 125,746 people have signed since it was posted in November 2012. Even Gov. Rick Perry (R) has hinted at trouble "if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people." That didn't sit well with some people in Austin, Texas. Another petition was filed last year from the liberal city, noted Erin Overbey at The New Yorker, asking "that it be allowed to secede from Texas, so that it can remain a part of the Union if the state secedes."
3. South Florida
Politicians in the heavily Democratic counties in the densely populated southern tip of the Sunshine State have made several attempts to split from the rural, mostly Republican central and northern parts of the state. "They speak Southern. We speak Spanish (and Creole, Portuguese, French, Russian, Romanian, Yiddish and Brooklynese)," argued Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo last year. "Clearly, we're not on the same page, and maybe not even in the same century." Still, a proposal to establish the separate states of North and South Florida went nowhere in 2008, and an attempt to revive the idea fizzled last year.
4. South California
North vs. South appears to be a recurring theme. In 2011, Jeff Jones, a Republican supervisor in Riverside County, proposed splitting off and forming a new state called South California. It would have had a population of 13.7 million people. Jones said he wanted to flee the state government because it was "completely dysfunctional" and unresponsive to his area's needs. "I am tired of California being the laughingstock of late-night jokes," he told The New York Times. "We must change course immediately or create a new state." A spokesman for California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) dismissed the idea. "A secessionist movement? What is this 1860?" he told Britain's Telegraph. "It's a supremely ridiculous waste of everybody's time."
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