While it is highly doubtful that Weld County will ultimately leave Colorado and become a part of Wyoming as recently proposed by a citizens group called “Weld County Wyoming,” the motivation behind the proposal is understandable.
One of its members succinctly told an AP reporter that Colorado’s political leadership “is at war with three major economic drivers for Weld County: small businesses, agriculture, and oil and gas.”
Indeed, it seems like all of rural Colorado is under assault by urban liberals from Denver and Boulder Counties who dominate the ruling Democratic Party leadership.
Gov. Jared Polis is from Boulder. U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper are both from Denver. Speaker of the House Alec Garnett is from Denver. Attorney General Phil Weiser is from Denver. Secretary of State Jena Griswold is from Boulder. Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg is from Boulder. The only exception is Senate President Leroy Garcia from Pueblo.
This is not a new dynamic. Going as far back as 30 years ago, previous Democratic senators were Tim Wirth (1987-1993) and Mark Udall (2009-2015) of Boulder while previous governors were Roy Romer (1987-1999), Bill Ritter (2007-2011) and John Hickenlooper (2011-2019) of Denver. Ritter and Romer had rural roots but their political careers were built in the city of Denver.
Meanwhile, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (1993-2005) of Ignacio was first elected as a Democrat in 1992 but found the national Democratic Party so hostile to his brand of moderation he switched parties in 1995 and was re-elected as a Republican in 1998. Other previous Republican senators were Hank Brown (1991-1997) of Greeley, Wayne Allard (1997-2009) of Loveland and Cory Gardner (2015-2021) of Yuma.
The only Republican to be elected governor in the past fifty years, Bill Owens (1999-2007), was from Aurora.
But this reality goes way beyond residency. The Denver-Boulder axis doggedly pursues its social and environmental agendas while showing contempt for the people and communities of rural Colorado.
Colorado Democratic leaders have confirmed they are once again going to seek to ban private prisons which would be disastrous for the two small counties where those prisons exist today. This comes on the heels of President Joseph R. Biden declaring he would abolish private prisons in the federal system.
Crowley and Bent counties in rural southeastern Colorado are two of the poorest counties in the state and their two private prisons are the counties’ largest employers. Because these prisons are privately owned they provide a huge tax base that funds local schools, fire and ambulance, and other community services.
This isn’t the first time Bent County has been in the crosshairs of a Democratic governor. One of the first actions by the then newly-elected governor, Hickenlooper, in 2011 was to abruptly close the state prison at Fort Lyon that housed geriatric and other special needs prisoners.
Fort Lyon had been a Veterans Administration hospital for decades before the federal government offered the expansive facility to the state of Colorado. Gov. Bill Owens accepted Fort Lyon for the prison in 2001 thereby preserving the employment base for the county until Hickenlooper closed it.
Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 112 in 2018 that would have dramatically and adversely impacted the oil and gas industry across Colorado, especially in Weld County, by creating strict setback limits from buildings, houses, rivers and streams. But the will of the voters was of no concern to majority Democrats in the state legislature in 2019 as they passed and Gov. Polis signed into law Senate Bill 181 that essentially had the same impact as the defeated Proposition 112. Democratic legislators vehemently denied that SB 181 would increase setbacks, but that is exactly what is happening just a year later. Meanwhile, oil and gas companies are struggling and jobs are being lost across rural Colorado.
Piling on the state assault on oil and gas, President Joe Biden has imposed a moratorium on new leases on federal land and drilling permits impacting Western Slope jobs and communities. State Sen. Bob Rankin says “I believe the gas industry in Western Colorado may collapse” affecting thousands of people.
Democrats are hell-bent to not only destroy the oil and gas industry, they are rabid about killing coal mining in northwest Colorado. There is no doubt our economy is making a transition to more renewables, but these hard-working coal miners, power plant workers and the communities they live in such as Craig, still supply 45% of Colorado’s net energy generation.
Whether it comes from some level of remorse or just a way to provide political cover, Democrats created the “Office of Just Transition” which ostensibly is supposed to help former oil and gas workers and coal miners make a “just transition” to new jobs which so far remain very elusive and undefined.
At least Biden’s new climate czar, former Massachusetts U.S. Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry, had an answer, however flippant as it was, to a question about what oil and gas workers could do to replace their high paying jobs. They can assemble solar panels, the wealthy and elitist Kerry sneered, as he was clearly irritated such a question was posed to him.
Meanwhile, Polis had to quickly backtrack from promoting plant-based “fake meat” products at the expense of livestock producers who account for 70% of Colorado’s $7 billion agricultural economy.
But Polis is not backtracking from his recent appointment of a self-proclaimed anti-meat activist, Ellen Kessler, to the Colorado Board of Veterinary Medicine. Kessler was removed from a Costco store in October 2020 during a protest by Direct Action Everywhere, a militant animal rights group.
According to state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Logan County, Kessler also attacked the venerable 4-H program because it “teaches children that animal lives don’t matter.” I would dare to say Kessler is no friend to farmers and ranchers across the state struggling to make a living.
Colorado is much more than Denver and Boulder, but you would never know it from the urban liberal assault on rural Colorado led by the Denver-Boulder Democratic axis.
Dick Wadhams is a GOP consultant and former Colorado Republican Party state chairman.
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