The Eastern Oregon leader’s plan to leave liberal Portland behind and join conservative Idaho is progressing rapidly.
Mike McCarter has a $70,000 budget for lobbyists in the two states, has seen allies introduce legislation in Oregon last month, and has ready a bill in Idaho that would speed up discussions for 15 counties to skip the border .
If it works, he says, other red districts will have a model for unseating their urban, Democratic rulers.
“I think the people of the United States are watching the Oregon movement and hoping it will pave the way for them in the future,” he told .
The leader of the Greater Idaho Movement is running the campaign from a cramped office in a cabin outside of La Pine.
Its walls are decorated with a musk deer’s head and muzzle-loading rifles.
Mike McCarter is President of the Greater Idaho Movement. The campaign is stepping up its push to have 15 counties leave Oregon and join the neighboring state of Idaho
The campaign wants to redraw state lines to include 15 conservative counties in eastern Idaho. About 11 counties have already voted to move the talks forward
It couldn’t be further from Oregon’s image as a haven for bright politics, where a majority voted to decriminalize hard drugs in 2020, where coastal valleys provide the perfect climate for the delicious Pinot Noir grape, and where liberal lifestyles sent upwards became the TV comedy Portlandia.
This is Portland with its homeless camps outside of donut shops.
In contrast, central and eastern Oregon is a land of hardy ranchers, lumberjacks, and sawmill workers. Where daytime temperatures dropped below freezing over the weekend after a snowstorm.
And where locals say they have more in common with neighboring Idaho than Portland and its $6 coffee lattes.
“Our movement is based on values,” said McCarter, 75, a retired kindergarten teacher who runs classes for people who want concealed carry permits
“You know, the traditional values of faith, family, freedom and independence.
“We don’t want to be served by the government. In other words, if my power goes out, I have a generator, I have water, everything… food storage.”
As America splits between town and country, Democratic cities and Republican hiss and prairies, Eastern Oregon is at the forefront of reshaping state borders.
Additional corporate tax burdens, a soft-soft approach to crime, and sweeping COVID lockdowns have left people here feeling at odds with the heads of state.
Signs on the road west of John Day in eastern Oregon. People here say they have more in common with neighboring Idaho and its Republican majority than with the voters in Portland and western Oregon, who are delivering Democratic leaders from election to election
Oregon’s moves to tighten gun laws have alienated some voters in the eastern part of the state, where strict COVID lockdowns and new taxes have been deeply unpopular
Fair representation, McCarter said, is across the border from Boise and not Oregon’s state capital, Salem.
That remains a vision. McCarter knows that Oregon is unlikely to give up 15 counties, 400,000 people, about 63 percent of its land without a fight.
But so far, 11 eastern counties have voted in favor of it (or at least legislation requiring the county to talk about a move).
Last month, Oregon lawmakers introduced legislation that would require the state to begin talks with Idaho, and a similar bill is poised to pass in Idaho.
It may be a long road, but McCarter said there are benefits to the counties left behind. He said western Oregon subsidizes the east at about $500 per eastern country per year.
“So if Oregon let go of Eastern Oregon, they’d be a lot richer right on their side,” he said. “You wouldn’t have the conflict and argument that goes back and forth.”
The Democrats would also likely have a supermajority in the legislature, giving them more leeway to pursue their agenda.
Voting Measure 110 was passed in 2020 and decriminalizes possession of hard drugs. It is accused of turning downtown Portland into an open-air drug market. The results of the vote revealed the east-west divide, with eastern counties opposing the measure
A man collapses on the sidewalk in downtown Portland, Oregon. Homelessness, drugs and crime dominate the competition to choose the state’s next governor. A Republican candidate with a law-and-order message has slacked in the polls
McCarter said his movement offers a roadmap for other parts of the country where there is a growing divide between urban and rural America
“Chicago controls Illinois. Atlanta controls Georgia. New York City controls all of New York State,” he said. “And there is a clear difference between town and country.”
For Sandie Gilson, a small business owner in John Day, about three hours east behind snow-capped mountains, the last straw was the 2018 corporate tax, which takes an extra half a percentage point of business income to fund the education system.
She said companies that create jobs and livelihoods shouldn’t have to face additional burdens for the “privilege of being part of the state.”
The tax is part of an attitude in other major cities in Portland and Oregon, she said, that is looking to the government to fix their problems.
“We don’t expect the government to answer or solve the problem,” she said over a cup of tea in the quiet rear bar of the Outpost Pub and Grill. “We expect that we solve the problem.”
Sandie Gilson, vice president of the Greater Idaho Movement, said residents of eastern Oregon don’t expect the government to step in and fix their problems
Gilson said the imbalance was highlighted by the 2020 election results, when cities decided which candidate won Electoral College votes. Joe Biden won more than 56 percent of the vote despite 26 of Oregon’s 36 counties supporting Donald Trump. Source: Wikipedia
While the eastern counties have supported the move, any decision on reshaping the border rests with the two states’ legislatures, and then with Congress.
It will be a long road getting legislation past Oregon’s Democratic-dominated House and Senate.
But Gilson said if congressional districts can be redrawn, why not a state line?
“It’s a little bit bigger, but it’s still one of those random lines that’s drawn on a map,” she said.
She said she feared that failure to find a political solution could lead to violence.
“The political divide between eastern and western Oregon must be bridged, and the greater Idaho movement offers only one solution.
“But we can no longer live with such animosity between the two sides. Otherwise it becomes violent.
“There have been people who have said to me, ‘Sandie, I’m so tired of this. I’m ready to take up arms.”