Republican voters in eastern and central Oregon are so fed up with liberal lawmakers that they want to break ranks — and state lines — and be part of Idaho.
On Tuesday, two Oregon counties, Morrow and Wheeler, are set to vote on a ballot measure on whether to consider leaving the state. Since 2020, nine eastern Oregon counties have already voted to join the Greater Idaho Movement.
“Eastern Oregonians are just different and have different views on crime, the Second Amendment, abortion, taxes, and minimum wage. [from the western portion of the state]Matt McCaw, spokesman for Greater Idaho, told The Post. “The polarization with the western part of the state is real. When I meet people and organize meetings, there are a lot of complaints about the lack of representation. Eastern Oregon is just very conservative and has its own culture.
So he and a group of disgruntled Oregonians in the small town of La Pine began hatching a plan for secession because they no longer felt represented by liberal lawmakers in the state capital, Salem. The solution: join Idaho, where the Republican Party is firmly in control.
“Eastern Oregon, where we all live, could get state-level government in Idaho that matches their values,” McCaw said.
It’s a sweeping proposal that would see nearly two-thirds of Oregon’s 63 million acres (98,000 square miles), but less than 10% of its population, merging into neighboring Idaho.
McCaw, 46, said movement leaders hope to attract 15 of the state’s 36 counties and two partials to join Idaho.
“We asked the simple question: ‘Do you want your elected leaders to change the border?’ and we have won our last six elections with over 60% of the vote,” McCaw told the Post.
For McCaw, who owns a small math curriculum business with his wife and supporters, the largely rural, conservative residents of eastern Oregon have very little in common with their progressive urban neighbors in western cities like Portland. , Eugene and Bend.
In the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump dominated eastern Oregon, winning nearly 80% of the vote in some counties, but President Biden ultimately won 56.5% of the vote thanks to liberal towns .
Nearly 64% of Idahoans voted for Trump, with 33% voting for Biden.
The current governor of Oregon, Democrat Kate Brown, has a 56% disapproval rate, the worst in the United States. Brown, whose term expires next year, has been criticized for doing little to stem increase in crime and homelessness in urban centers across the state since she became governor in 2015.
Some Oregonians are so fed up with spiraling crime, easy access to drugs and homelessness that, for the first time in 40 years, Oregon can see a republican become governor.
Christine Drazan, 50, a former Oregon House Minority Leader, has a slight lead over her closest challenger, former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat. Independent Betsy Johnson is also in the running, and some predict she could split the blue vote.
But even the prospect of a Republican governor would not improve the situation for those in the eastern part of the state, said Sandie Gilson, who lives in Grant County, one of the first counties in Oregon to vote in 2020 to explore membership in Idaho.
“Even though we have a Republican governor, the Democrats still have a supermajority in the legislature,” said Gilson, 56, a fifth-generation Oregonian whose gold miner great-great-grandfather arrived in the state. ‘state in the 1800s. “It won’t change a thing.”
Gilson and her husband are small business owners who say they want to be self-sufficient in a rural area where an emergency call to the police could result in a two-hour wait for help. The couple, who own firearms, say they are unable to defend themselves in an emergency due to government warrants. Last year, the state enacted a safe storage law that requires gun owners to keep them locked up.
“It would take us over five minutes to unlock our weapons, and in that time a lot could happen,” Gilson told the Post. “Lawmakers do things that just don’t make sense to us.”
Gilson also said she doesn’t feel safe after Oregon decriminalized the personal portions of all drugs in 2020 and earlier this year instituted bail reform laws that allow accused defendants of misdemeanors and certain crimes to be released without bail.
“How does this make me safe in my house? Gilson said, adding that residents of eastern Oregon, which has a fraction of the population of the western part of the state, are generally outvoted.
Like Gilson, 75-year-old Mike McCarter said people in eastern Oregon are almost always outvoted by the much more populous western region. McCarter, who lives in La Pine and is one of the founders of Greater Idaho, told the Post that eastern residents voted two to one against recreational drug use, but “western Oregon wanted it, and they voted.”
Yet McCarter insists the movement for a Greater Idaho is not political. “We try to keep the movement out of politics,” he said. “Our movement is a traditional values type faith movement – of people who value freedom, independence and self-sufficiency.”
In 2020, Governor Brad Little of Idaho said he welcomed the move, adding, “They look at Idaho with fondness because of our regulatory atmosphere, our values. What interests them [in] is that they would like to have a little more autonomy, a little more control, a little more freedom and I can understand that.
Although states have had their borders reconfigured in the past – Maine seceded from Massachusetts in 1820 – there is no historical precedent for large landmasses leaving one state and joining another.
Ryan Griffiths, a political science professor at Syracuse University who studies the secession of sovereign states, told the Post that “the bar is pretty high” for state secession in the United States.
“It’s not the kind of thing that’s done unilaterally by people in the counties,” Griffiths said. “They have to take on Oregon State and Idaho State, and that’s a very high bar.”