Liberty-lovers consider Wyoming
|Title:||Liberty-lovers consider Wyoming|
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Liberty-lovers consider Wyomingby Martin Reed News-Record Writer 09/28/03
If 20,000 liberty-loving people move to Wyoming in, say, the next five years, don't worry. It's not an invasion.
"Twenty thousand is not enough to 'take over' any state and that is definitely not our intent," said Elizabeth McKinstry, vice president of an organization that promotes tiny government and big personal freedom.
"But with 20,000 people you can certainly open up the (political) dialogue. ... You can open up debates to third-party candidates."
The Free State Project will announce on Wednesday to which state its membership will migrate in the coming years with the long-term goal of political influence. Wyoming is one of 10 states on the list, which includes Alaska, Montana, Idaho and North Dakota and South Dakota. Delaware, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire are also on the list.
And like it or not, Wyoming is also among the top contenders. "The small population is definitely one of the selling points ... as well as the political environment," McKinstry said. The low cost of living, low taxes and the combination of urban and rural landscapes are other positive aspects.
Its geographic location within the country is a plus, too. "Wyoming is not likely to attract much attention from the federal government like a more popular East Coast state," McKinstry said.
For instance, if Vermont legalizes marijuana, it would cause some major bad vibes with its neighbor Washington, D.C.
"And Wyoming has a real spirit of independence," she added. It's that rugged individualistic spirit that has driven the state since its inception that makes some question whether the Free State Project can be as successful in Wyoming as elsewhere in the nation.
"Some of their thoughts are pretty radical and they certainly believe in limited government. I'm not so certain that's the right approach," Gillette Mayor Duane Evenson said.
The government is forced to support many ventures within the state because of its small population, Evenson said. But he added, "It depends on what they want to do." Free State participants, about 70 percent of whom are Libertarians, support reducing the size of government by about two-thirds. They want reductions in taxation and repeal of regulation concerning most gun control and drug prohibition laws.
It's not anarchy, though.
"Anyone who promotes violence, racial hatred or bigotry is not welcome," says the group's Web site, www.freestateproject.org. Darren Lynde, chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party, admitted that the group would meet resistance in most every state. "I don't think anybody would be opposed to opening up the flow of ideas. When you start seeing those tensions is when those ideas clash. But that's how you get a strong democracy," Lynde said.
Introducing new ideas could also stimulate the political environment and participation, he added. "One of the biggest problems we face is apathy. Sometimes some of these groups can actually interject their ideas and energize people who have been apathetic."
L.J. Turner, Campbell County Democratic Party chairman, said an influx of politically minded people into the state would be a boon.
"They're going to have to have jobs and they're going to have to be able to furnish," Turner said. "Maybe they can bring some new blood in the state and start something we haven't done."
Turner added quickly, "They're welcome as far as I'm concerned but I just don't think they're going to take things over and reshape them."
Gillette resident Duffy Jenniges said determination is the key to accomplishment. "I think 20,000 people moving into the state with some diverse views might be the impetus we need to get the rest of the people to come around," he said.
Jenniges, who has run unsuccessfully for the state Legislature three times as a Democrat, said people at least hear what his campaign platform encompasses even if they don't agree with it.
The same could happen with the Free State Project.
"I think people might listen. I wouldn't say it would be a resounding turnaround," he said. "I think they (Wyoming's residents) are getting open to start looking at change."
The Free State Project doesn't expect to get rolling on its migration until about 2005 when its membership reaches 20,000.
"That's really our goal, is to get the 20,000 liberty-loving people to the right state and, once they get there, they'll do the right thing," McKinstry said.
That could weigh heavily in the group's favor, Evenson said. "If you've got a long time and time is on your side, you can get a lot accomplished."
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