New Hampshire named Free State
|Title:||New Hampshire named Free State|
New Hampshire named Free State
by Kate Mccann Associated Press 10/01/03
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) A group of libertarians planning to bring 20,000 liberty-minded Americans to a "free state" announced the winner Wednesday: New Hampshire.
New Hampshire, whose motto is "Live Free or Die," beat out nine other finalists as the battleground for what members of the Free State Project call the biggest experiment in democracy since the Revolutionary War.
At a news conference in New York City, project founder Jason Sorens unfurled the New Hampshire flag as he broke the news to dozens of project members.
"I hope to live and hopefully die in New Hampshire," said Sorens, 26, who inspired the project with an essay he wrote as a Yale graduate student.
"We won. That's fantastic," said state Libertarian Party Chairman John Babiarz. "It's like New Hampshire has won a nationwide popularity contest based on its fundamentals."
Retired school principal Ken Perry disagreed.
"I'm ballistic. We have enough trouble passing school budgets as it is. These people will come in and try to eliminate services," said Perry, 58, a Realtor in Wolfeboro.
"I was hoping they'd go to Wyoming," Perry added.
Though some project members belong to the Libertarian Party, many simply believe in minimal government and maximum freedom.
Some favor repealing laws against so-called victimless crimes such as prostitution and drug use. But there is no official platform on the project's Web site (www.freestateproject.com), which focuses on mainstream goals such as lowering taxes and eliminating government waste.
In a statement, Republican Gov. Craig Benson said the project fits with a tradition dating back to the Colonial era of people coming to New Hampshire seeking small government and personal liberty.
"I am excited they are for the rule of law, against prejudice and eager to be engaged in the political process," he said.
Benson's support prompted criticism from Democrats.
"Why is Governor Craig Benson supporting a group that wants to legalize prostitution, legalize drugs and eliminate public schools?" said Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan. "Craig Benson should explain to the voters why he is supporting such a radical, antifamily agenda."
Residents also were divided.
"Libertarians are brutal here. We don't need any more," said John Cannistraro, 43, a Democrat who works at a Hannaford grocery store in Concord. "But legalizing marijuana, that's cool with me."
Concord lawyer Dennis Pizzimenti, 56, said he is an independent with libertarian sympathies. But he said there are limits.
"I like to be left alone by the government. But I need my trash picked up. I need police protection," he said.
New Hampshire was ranked first in votes from every region in the country except the West. Wyoming was runner-up, but still 10 percentage points behind New Hampshire.
Following Wyoming, in order, were Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Maine, Vermont, Delaware, South Dakota and North Dakota.
The project hopes to boost membership from 5,400 now to 20,000 by 2005.
But even 20,000 concentrated votes would do little at the state level. Babiarz got 13,028 votes for governor last November compared with Benson's 259,663. The state has 1.3 million residents.
Project Vice President Elizabeth McKinstry of Ann Arbor, Mich., said New Hampshire's strengths included low taxes, a lean state government and a citizen legislature.
The New Hampshire Constitution also protects the right to revolution: "Whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government."
Half of project members have college degrees. Seventy-five percent are under age 50 and nearly half earn $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 planned migration is supposed to begin in earnest by 2005. Two sparsely populated northern counties, Grafton and Coos, appear to be the favorites.
"Those counties are ideal because I think the people are strikingly independent," said Babiarz, who lives in the town of Grafton.
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