Delware not libertarians' promised land
|Title:||Del. not libertarians' promised land|
Del. not libertarians' promised landFree State Project opts for N.H.
by Sean O'Sullivan Staff reporter 10/02/03
The First State was no match for the Live Free or Die state among a group of revolution-minded libertarians.
On Wednesday, The Free State Project, whose goal is to move 20,000 "freedom loving" people to a single state and use their political clout to create a libertarian utopia, selected New Hampshire over Delaware as the target for its coup.
Delaware was one of 10 states being considered for takeover and was an early leader among project organizers. But in a poll of the nearly 5,000 group members, Delaware finished a distant eighth in the selection process.
The group announced its selection Wednesday in New York City and its Web site, freestateproject.org.
Keith Murphy, a Free State Project organizer from Maryland, said what really hurt Delaware was the state's "absurd" smoking ban and gun control efforts in Wilmington.
"We see that as an invasion of personal liberty, and that turned off a lot of people," he said.
Murphy said there also did not seem to be strong support for The Free State Project among residents in Delaware, but a variety of groups in New Hampshire welcomed them with open arms.
Project organizers hope that over the next few years their membership of 5,400 will grow to 20,000, triggering the mass move to New Hampshire perhaps as soon as 2005.
The runner-up to New Hampshire was Wyoming, followed by Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Maine, Vermont, Delaware, South Dakota and North Dakota.
Project Vice President Elizabeth McKinstry of Ann Arbor, Mich., said New Hampshire won because it "boasts the lowest state and local tax burden in the continental U.S., the leanest state government in the country ... a citizen legislature, a healthy job market and, perhaps most important, local support for our movement," she said.
Project members also have noted the state's constitution, which protects citizens' rights to revolution and secession.
But the prospect of 20,000 libertarian-minded neighbors worries Democratic leaders and others who view them as a fringe group that wants to overthrow the government.
Kathy Sullivan, New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman, said project members "can best be described as anarchists."
Project members say critics have the wrong idea.
"We're not here to invade or take over. We're here to restore the American dream," said New Hampshire Libertarian Party Chair John Babiarz.
Half the project members have college degrees. Seventy-five percent are younger than 50 and nearly half make $60,000 or more annually.
The state already has more than 100 project members, who plan to ease the transition for the others with an "Explore New Hampshire" tour and by pointing free-staters to real estate offices.
The project has been resisted by those who oppose easing gambling restrictions, legalizing medicinal marijuana and strengthening gun rights, issues for which some project members plan to lobby.
But McKinstry says New Hampshire should not view them as trigger-happy pot-smoking gamblers. She says the project will promote charitable work and scholarship programs, and help citizens take back their government.
Doug Hillman, 39, is looking forward to leaving Graham, Ala., and moving his wife and four young children to New Hampshire.
Hillman was most impressed with Republican Gov. Craig Benson's attitude toward the project - "Come on up, we'd love to have you," he said last summer.
"That led me to believe that libertarian thought and libertarianism is more accepted in New Hampshire," he said.
Lisa Busch, New Castle County chairwoman of the Delaware Libertarian Party, said she was disappointed but not surprised Delaware was not selected.
She said New Hampshire lobbied organizers hard.
"Delaware didn't cater to any of that at all," she said, adding perhaps if the state had marketed itself more to the group, it would have fared better.
Associated Press contributed to this article. Reach Sean O'Sullivan at 324-2777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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