CHICAGO — Activists in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have been pushing for statehood for decades. But they aren’t the only ones who aspire to create a 51st state.
Many rural, often conservative, residents of large Democratic-controlled states are tired of being overshadowed politically, culturally and economically by big cities.
They’ve tried legislation, elections and even redistricting. The problems can’t be solved by traditional means, they say. So why not use a tool built into the U.S. Constitution? Create a new state out of an existing state through approval of both the state legislature and Congress.
It happened when Maine split from Massachusetts in 1820, and again when West Virginia split from Virginia in 1863 during the Civil War. Could Chicago split from Illinois now?
To be sure, creating a new state is a significant undertaking and unlikely to succeed, political scientists say. But long odds haven’t extinguished momentum for these quixotic movements.
In Illinois, a resolution calling on Congress to declare Chicago the 51st state has eight Republican co-sponsors in the state House (there are 44 Republicans in the lower chamber). It also has support among many of the state’s conservative activists. It’s the second such bill in as many years.
Illinois state Rep. Brad Halbrook, the bill’s author, cites the many issues tearing the state apart. He listed Democrats’ “overreaching” stances on abortion, guns, immigration, debt, pensions, Medicaid spending, property taxes, green energy and workers’ compensation as just some of the reasons Chicago and Illinois should go their separate ways.
“Everywhere I go, people say we just need to get rid of Chicago,” he said. “It gets rid of all of our problems. My constituency is serious about it. I’m trying to save the state.”
Halbrook has a small family farm in Shelbyville, a rural community along the Kaskaskia River in central Illinois with around 4,600 residents.