Moffat County divided over secession issue


— County secession is not a new concept for rural Colorado. The idea has been floated for decades in living rooms and over beers. But recently, some counties — including Moffat — have been taking serious efforts toward withdrawing from the state.

Moffat County commissioners will vote Tuesday about whether they want to ask voters about seceding from Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement to the Craig Daily Press that this undermines the value of Colorado’s diverse political culture.

“There may be a political agenda behind secession I don't get because when I think of Colorado, it means all of our diverse communities and people,” he said.

John Kinkaid brought up the 51st State Initiative’s motto — to unite dissatisfied Colorado counties to secede and form a 51st state — at this week’s Moffat County Commission meeting. After that discussion, he decided he would write ballot language before the Sept. 6 deadline for Moffat County’s election to give voters the option to secede.

“The discussion kind of took a life of its own,” Kinkaid said. “I thought that letting people vote on it, and the discussion that would take place from now and then, would work. It looks like we’ve hit a nerve.”

One of those nerves might belong to Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe, who said he didn’t think Kinkaid was following due process with this proposal.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to the proposal. What I’m opposed to is it being done behind closed doors without open discussion,” Grobe said. “I am against it because of the way it was done. That’s how I always governed. Talk to everybody.”

Kinkaid said that he had not made plans to put this on the ballot beforehand but that the quickly coming ballot deadline drove the inertia of the discussion.

“People shouldn’t feel like I’m trying to ramrod this through. Not at all,” he said. “I just want people to have a voice.”

But Grobe still thinks the commission and the community are out of the loop. Kinkaid dropped off the draft for the ballot language to the Craig Daily Press on Wednesday, and Grobe said he didn’t see it until Thursday.

“See, that’s what irritates me — just that this comes out before the commissioners even see it — because he’s speaking for the board of Moffat County commissioners,” Grobe said. “I just will have my say Tuesday morning, and how it votes out is all I can do.”

Grobe said he was concerned this being on the ballot could jeopardize efforts to get DOLA grants, which is state money.

“We have a big $6 million project going forward: Shadow Mountain. If we don’t get a DOLA grant for that, it’s dead in the water,” he said.

Mayor Terry Carwile also spoke against the proposal.

“I’ve been a resident of the great state of Colorado for over 50 years, and I’m proud to say that,” he said, adding that the proper approach is to “foster productive relationships with colleagues at the state level.”

The likelihood that the secession would happen is near impossible, Carwile said.

“The prospect of that happening would be nil. I wonder if any thought had been given to it and the mechanics of it,” he said.

Since the announcement, Kinkaid has spoken about secession on the "Amy Oliver Show," a local radio program, and it has been distributed widely in publications throughout Wyoming and Colorado.

He has been getting praise for his actions. While Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said voting on secession would function more as a statement, he still thinks it’s a good idea.

“It could equalize the discussion,” Mathers said. “Maybe this will open some doors.”

Rick Barnes, of the Bears Ears Tea Party Patriots, said that it was prime time to take this sort of action and that he hoped secession could become a reality.

“I’m all for it. We got to get Denver to wake up if that’s what it takes,” he said. “We can get the process started and let them know that we’re through being messed with. We’re part of the state, too. Hopefully, the statement will be enough.”

Other community members are concerned about how this will make the county look to the rest of Colorado.

“It’s not the positive attention I think Moffat County deserves,” said Jo Ann Baxter, chairperson of the Moffat County Democrats. “If it does pass, then they made a commitment to spend money on something that is impractical and improbable.”

Hickenlooper said he was open to talk about rural Coloradans’ concerns.

“If this talk of a 51st state is about politics designed to divide us, it is destructive. But if it is about sending a message, then I see our responsibility to lean in and do a better job of listening,” he said.

Kinkaid said he wants to use this as a bargaining chip.

“I would be OK with a compromised solution. In a negotiation, you start with a strong position,” he said. “You don’t start with the least you’ll expect.”

Carwile said there were better ways to start a dialogue.

“You can still have a good discussion even if you don’t agree,” Carwile said. “You have to go and perform good service. You have to be a good ambassador to our community.”

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or


John Kinkaid 3 years, 8 months ago

What I said was.... That I would be okay with a compromise solution.

A compromised solution would not be good. Ha.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 8 months ago

With the natural gas exploration not as promising as even a few months ago then any claimed negative effect of state regulations becomes irrelevant.

"In a negotiation, you start with a strong position" - well, sure, but what strength is there in threatening to form a 51st state? Might be more effective threaten to hold your breath until you pass out. At least then you get publicity for passing out.


rhys jones 3 years, 8 months ago

How would the State of Colorado respond to such affrontery? Send in the National Guard to quell the rebellion and restore order? Or would a blockade on U.S. 40 and Colo 13 suffice? Should we make Moffat County a no-fly zone too?

Oh those wily troublemakers... and just when things were going SO WELL...

Hey, if it works, could you take Telluride/San Miguel County with you?


David Moore 3 years, 8 months ago

I'll vote right now, absolutely not. I agree with the mayor, I have always been quite proud to tell people I am from Colorado, and I would like it to stay that way. Not everyone who lives in this county is an idiot.


mark hartless 3 years, 8 months ago

The polarization in this nation is higher than at any time since the Civil War.

The main reason is that we have thrown out our nation's owners manual, The Constitution.

Now that it is basically destroyed (or at the very least ignored) everyone tries to tinker on the engine of democracy with the wrench that seems best to every individual.

One person or group twisting the bolt of gay marriage, another hammering away at pot legalization, others rewiring and short circuiting privacy laws, others grabbing up the guns while their opponents talk of secession. Overpowering one branch of government with another...

Then all the cooks that spoiled the stew wonder why there is division, strife, confusion and dysfunction. Hell, I wonder why it's not WORSE.

And David, YOU might be proud to be from Colorado; I used to be, but I'm increasingly embarrassed by this state.


mark hartless 3 years, 8 months ago

The answer, Moffat County, is NOT secession; it is nullification.

Ignore stupid, unconstitutional laws and they will go away. Refuse to enforce this nonsense and it will wither on the vine.

Be a refuge for the state and sensible people with business skills and capital will seek you out.


John Kinkaid 3 years, 8 months ago

Not one Republican state legislator voted in favor of SB 252 and yet it became law through shear force of will. We keep getting run over at the state capitol and our economy suffers as a result. BTW...... Yesterday I gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal.


mark hartless 3 years, 8 months ago

There are ways to work around these foolish regulations. Those who find those ways will attract business capital and growth. Such has been the case for most of history.

Look at what the County Sherrifs did on the gun/magazine ban. It might be the law of the state but not many people in Mofatt County have to worry about it because the sheriffs will ignore it. It also gives them the option to charge someone with that "crime" if the sheriff knows them to be a deserving dirtbag. "selective enforcement" turned around, so to speak...

Ignore stupid, unconstitutional laws and the legislatures that pass them. Make them send the National Guard to enforce it and bring attention to the abuse by making them use ridiculous measures to enforce ridiculous laws.

Does Mofatt County NOT collect state tax money? Declare a "State tax free" zone till the regs are repealed. Have the sheriff empound vehicles and equipment belonging to state officials, I don't know...

I DO know there IS an answer somewhere INSIDE and the people DO have power if they make up their mind to use it. Secession is NOT the solution; nullification IS.


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