DENVER -- A group of county commissioners say they are pursuing a plan to secede from Colorado and create a new state because they feel the Democrat-controlled state legislature is not representing their way of life.
Sean Conway, a commissioner in Weld County, is leading a charge to ask voters in November whether to form a new state.
"I know you think, wow, this is crazy when you first hear about it, but then you realize that five of our states -- Vermont, Maine, Tennessee, Wyoming and Kentucky -- came about in this fashion, and the circumstances were very similar to what we're going through now," Conway told FOX31 Denver Thursday afternoon.
Conway, a Republican, said informal discussions have been underway between county commissioners about what kind of action to take. They say the state government has been ignoring values of rural counties when passing recent legislation including gun control measures, expanding oil and gas production and creating new renewable energy standards for rural areas.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, after a long deliberation, signed the increased renewable energy standard for rural electric co-ops into law on Wednesday.
Opponents of that bill labeled it as part of a "war on rural Colorado."
Now, it's become Fort Sumter.
"I have never seen a legislative session like this," Conway said. "They ignore us. They don't listen to us. It started with the gun control bills and came to a head this week with S.B. 252 being signed."
Any move to secede would require votes in each county. Then the plan would require the approval of the state legislature and the governor in order to petition Congress to create a new state, the newspaper reported.
Conway said the idea is not a partisan one. He said Democrats who hold county office share his feelings.
Commissioners from Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Washington, Yuma and Kit Carson counties all expressed interest in the idea. Many met earlier this week at a Colorado Counties Inc. conference in Keystone to discuss the feasibility of forming a new state.
FOX31 Denver has also confirmed the governor's senior staff, as they met to make a final decision on whether or not to sign S.B. 252, heard rumblings from the CCI meetings about the secession plans.
Conway and Weld County commissioners Doug Rademacher and Mike Freeman told the Greeley Tribune they think a North Colorado would be a viable state.
Rademacher said Weld County alone is bigger than Delaware or Rhode Island. A North Colorado would have a value of $7.5 billion this year and fees from drilling for oil and natural gas could fuel a state government, he told the Tribune.
The commissioners insisted their proposal is serious, but if nothing else the hope it highlights longstanding tensions between rural and urban communities.
Those tensions have been underlined in social media circles Thursday afternoon.
Liberals have mocked the move on blogs and on Twitter, where some tossed around new names for a separate, northern Colorado state: "Weldistan", "Tancredonia" and "Fracktopia."
"It's embarrassing for them, and it's embarrassing for the people they represent," Jason Bane, the founder of the blog ColoradoPols, told FOX31 Denver. "They complain that the legislature didn't listen to them -- they DID listen to them, but in a Democracy, there are lots of other people who have viewpoints, and they don't all throw a tantrum just because a vote doesn't go their way."
Bane also works for Western Resource Advocates, a conservation group that lobbied hard for the passage of S.B. 252.
"Today 90 percent of Colorado voters live along the Front Range. If the legislature or the governor made their decisions based entirely on the interests of the other 10 percent, how would that be good government?"
Eric Anderson, a public affairs specialist who worked on the campaign against S.B. 252, tweeted back: "Denver-area tweeps: When you mock rural CO frustrations with Front Range lawmaking you prove their point."
Former Democratic House Speaker Terrance Carroll offered this tweet: "I won't dispute rural issues aren't always understood by urbanites, but secession talk is not even serious effort at dialogue."