CHUCK MALLOY: And here we have ‘greater’ Idaho

February 25, 2020 11:25 AM

Hmmm. Folks in southwestern Oregon may be onto something.

They are fed up with how liberal Trump-hating politicians are running the state, so they want to move to Idaho — without physically moving to Idaho, of course. Petition drives have been launched in Josephine and Douglas counties to be part of Idaho — where the conservative politics are more to their liking.

The petition drive, as part of the “Greater Idaho project,” could extend to 17 other counties who are tired of the liberal landscape in Oregon.

They would love Idaho, where worshipping President Trump is part of the political mainstream for the GOP. Republicans hold all congressional seats and state constitutional offices, and 80 percent of the Legislature. This is no joke. A petition drive is in the works, and it could go before voters.

“We are starting with county ballot initiatives first, because we want to prove that after the campaign this summer, ordinary voters in rural Oregon will show that they don’t want to be ruled from Salem anymore,” said Mike McCarter, one of the chief petitioners, in a news release. “Convincing the state to let these counties go is the second step.”

Democrats in Oregon should be saying “good riddance,” and Republicans in the Gem State should be laying out the welcome mat for their disgruntled neighbors. Republicans in Idaho and Democrats in Oregon can gain more control, without resorting to gerrymandering. The configurations of the states would look a little funny if the Greater Idaho project goes through, but that’s a small price to pay for political bliss. The good news for the Gem State is that it would be closer to the shape of a potato.

McCarter, according to a news release, is a veteran and a former president of the Oregon Agribusiness Council. He’s a life member of the National Rifle Association and is a committee co-chair of Friends of NRA. That’s a winning resume for anyone in Idaho running for public office.

As he explains: “Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallets, our gun rights, and our values. We tried voting those legislators out, but rural Oregon is out-numbered and our voices are now ignored. This is our last resort.”

Oregon isn’t the only state looking to end the political divide. Four years ago, shortly after Trump’s victory, a bill was filed in the legislature to split Washington State. Trump supporters on the eastern end have long complained about control from Democrats in the west.

As for McCarter, he’d have no trouble finding sympathy in North Idaho, where people know all about being alienated. All the high congressional and state offices are filled by politicians from the south. The closest state representative for the Silver Valley, where I grew up, and part of Bonner County, lives in Grangeville — with little hope of redistricting changing this sorry situation. Legislative races are won or lost in Idaho County, where conservative candidates tend to thrive. Centrist candidates from the north don’t have a prayer of winning.

If part of Oregon can move to Idaho, then maybe Shoshone County can look into creating a “Greater Montana project.” Or, better yet, build a coalition that wants to chop off the Panhandle somewhere around White Bird Hill and create the great state of North Idaho. It would be nice to have political leaders who realize “Canada” is not a road that separates Canyon and Ada counties. Offices, such as governor or Congress, could be filled by the likes of Sen. Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene, Rep. Caroline Troy of Genesee or Sen. Dan Johnson of Lewiston. The big fight would be whether to locate the state capital in Coeur d’Alene or Lewiston.

One downside that comes to mind is that Marty Trillhaase, the hard-hitting opinion editor of the Lewiston Tribune, wouldn’t have southern Idaho politicians to kick around anymore. But I’m sure my friend would find plenty of editorial battles in North Idaho.

Talk about North Idaho forming its own state is not new. I’ve heard it for much of my life, mostly in the form of wishful thinking from coffee shops and barrooms. But people from the north should be paying attention to what’s happening in Oregon, especially if those petition drives are successful.

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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.