State of Jefferson Leader Endorses Greater Idaho Movement

The man behind a plan to create a new state from parts of Oregon and California says just joining Idaho is probably easier.

A backer of Oregon’s most storied secessionist movement has joined ranks with its newest and most successful.

The Greater Idaho movement, which seeks to move the border of Oregon west and absorb 14 Oregon counties into Idaho, received an endorsement Monday from Robert Chard, the most recent leader of the State of Jefferson, a movement to carve a new, separate state out of Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Chard could not immediately be reached for comment. But according to a Citizens for Greater Idaho announcement, Chard’s rationale for the endorsement was that the Greater Idaho movement may be less controversial and therefore more likely to pass the Oregon Legislature.

The State of Jefferson currently has no official leader. Chard, a Josephine County resident, was its volunteer leader since reviving the Oregon movement in 2015. The release from Greater Idaho attributes Chard’s retreat from the movement to his perception that state legislators in California had “completely ignored” the progress that had been made by the movement there.

According to the press release, both current leaders of the California side of the State of Jefferson movement, Mark Baird and Terry Rapoza, have said that they will consider supporting Greater Idaho if it seems “the shortest route” to achieving their own goals.

The State of Jefferson movement originated in 1941, when the mayor of Port Orford, Ore., suggested the union of four Southern Oregon counties with three Northern California counties to become a new state as a response to his concern that these rural areas were underrepresented in the states’ legislatures. Since then, the movement has seen periodic revivals of support in California and Oregon but made little headway, particularly in Oregon.

The Greater Idaho movement has fared better: Voters in nine Oregon counties have approved an advisory question (basically a recommendation to the state Legislature), and this year the Citizens for Greater Idaho nonprofit received a $155,000 contribution—no chump change for a movement that appeared fantastical several years ago.

In the May primaries, Douglas and Josephine counties voted no on an advisory question regarding the proposal to change state lines, causing Greater Idaho to reduce its vision for “phase 1″ of the boundary shift.