Seven years ago, keen for a more conservative lifestyle, Mike McCarter, a firearm instructor in La Pine, Oregon, considered moving to Idaho.
But McCarter, 72, diagnosed with stomach cancer, decided not to. Now, he’s thinking he might just move Idaho to him.
The Republican is a leader of a group called Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, which thinks Oregon’s government has become too liberal and would prefer to transfer Oregon’s rural areas to Idaho’s authority.
While then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton narrowly won Oregon in 2016, President Donald Trump swept up Idaho with nearly 60%.
McCarter’s group is asking 18 Oregon counties to approve their petitions to open communications with Oregon’s legislature. Three have in the past week, McCarter said. Once approved, the group would still need to collect about 6% of the counties’ populations for local voters to see the referendum on their November ballots, The Oregonian recently reported.
Both state legislatures and Congress would need to approve the change, per the U.S. Constitution.
The move might upset Idaho’s conservative base, which has long feared an influx of California residents. A surge from the blue state prompted some in Idaho to make bumper stickers with slogans like “Welcome to Idaho, now go home” and “Don’t Californicate Idaho.”
But McCarter said the addition of Oregon’s counties would improve Idaho, including giving the landlocked state its first ocean port.
Phase two of the plan would be to recruit California’s northern counties, McCarter said.
The proposal has already received support from some lawmakers, including Oregon state Rep. Gary Leif, a Republican who put up a map of the “Greater Idaho” in his office.
“If Portland is trying to divide the state of Oregon then they are doing an excellent job and will provide all the more reasons to make this happen,” Lief emailed The Washington Post. “It would be in the best interest to let Portland be Oregon and let us secede to Idaho.”
Idaho has served as a conservative sanctuary before. This summer, Republican lawmakers fled the capital, possibly to Idaho, to avoid voting on a climate change measure, prompting Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, to call the cops.
This also isn’t the first time in recent history the borders of Oregon have faced a proposed change. Several groups have supported the “state of Jefferson,” which would make up northern California and eastern Oregon.
One of the movement’s leaders, Mark Baird, said he personally supports the petitions and plans to join the group.
“Rural people and rural counties no longer have a voice,” he said. “I, as an individual, recognize that a rising tide floats all boats. If this turns out to be the shortest route to liberty and representation, I’ll give it a go.”
But Jefferson has yet to become a state. McCarter said it’s easier to move a border than create a state, citing a recent case in 1961 when about 20 acres of land were transferred from Minnesota to North Dakota.
“I can live right where I am, with the great pines and river across from me, and still have the benefits of Idaho,” he said. “I suppose it’s like the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence.”