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Updated Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 12:16 AM

Some Texans want to divorce U.S.

By MANNY FERNANDEZ
The New York Times

HOUSTON — In the weeks since President Obama's re-election, Republicans nationwide have been wondering how to proceed. Some conservatives in Texas have been asking a far more pointed question: How to secede.

Secession fever has struck parts of Texas, which Mitt Romney won by nearly 1.3 million votes.

Sales of bumper stickers reading "Secede" — one for $2, or three for $5 — have increased at TexasSecede.com. In East Texas, a Republican official sent an email newsletter saying it was time for Texas and Vermont to each "go her own way in peace" and sign a free-trade agreement among the states.

A petition calling for secession that was filed by a Texas man on a White House website has received tens of thousands of signatures, and the Obama administration must now issue a response. Larry Scott Kilgore, a perennial Republican candidate from Arlington, a Dallas suburb, said he was running for governor in 2014 and would legally change his name to Larry Secede Kilgore, with Secede in capital letters. As his Web page, secedekilgore.com, puts it: "Secession! All other issues can be dealt with later."

In Texas, talk of secession in recent years has steadily shifted to the center from the fringe right. It has emerged as a radical echo of the state Republican leadership's anti-Washington, D.C., pro-Texas-sovereignty mantra on a variety of issues, including health care and environmental regulations. For some Texans, the renewed interest in the subject serves simply as comic relief after a crushing election defeat.

But it is a far more serious matter for other proponents of secession and its sister ideology, Texas nationalism — a focus of the Texas Nationalist Movement and other groups that want the state to become an independent nation, as it was in the 1830s and 1840s.

The official in East Texas, Peter Morrison, the treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party, said he had received overwhelming support from conservative Texans and overwhelming opposition from liberals outside the state in response to his comments in his newsletter. He said it may take time for "people to appreciate that the fundamental cultural differences between Texas and other parts of the United States may be best addressed by an amicable divorce, a peaceful separation."

The online petitions — created on the We the People platform at petitions.whitehouse.gov — are required to receive 25,000 signatures in 30 days for the Obama administration to respond. The Texas secession petition, created Nov. 9 by a man identified as Micah H. of Arlington, had received more than 116,000 signatures by Friday. It asks the Obama administration to "peacefully grant" the withdrawal of Texas from the United States and describes doing so as "practically feasible," given the state's large economy.

Residents in other states, including Alabama, Florida, Colorado, Louisiana and Oklahoma, have submitted similar petitions, although none has received as many signatures as the one from Texas.

An administration official said every petition that crossed the signature threshold would be reviewed and would receive a response, although it was unclear when.

Gov. Rick Perry, who twice made public remarks in 2009 suggesting he was sympathetic to the secessionist cause, will not be signing the petition.

"Governor Perry believes in the greatness of our union, and nothing should be done to change it," said spokeswoman Catherine Frazier.

The secession movement in Texas is divergent, with differences in goals and tactics. One group, the Republic of Texas, says secession is unnecessary because, it claims, Texas is an independent nation that was illegally annexed by the United States in 1845. (The group's leader and other followers waged a weeklong standoff with the Texas Rangers in 1997 that left one of its members dead.) Kilgore, the candidate who is changing his middle name, said he had not signed the White House petition because he did not believe Texans needed to ask for permission to leave.

"Our economy is about 30 percent larger than that of Australia," said Kilgore, 48, a telecommunications contractor. "Australia can survive on their own, and I don't think we'll have any problem at all surviving on our own in Texas."

Few of the public calls for secession have addressed the messy details, such as what would happen to the state's many federal courthouses, prisons, military bases and parklands. And no one has asked the Texas residents who received tens of millions of dollars in federal aid after destructive wildfires last year for their thoughts.

But the secession talk also has intrigued liberals. Caleb M. of Austin started his own petition on the White House website. It asks the federal government to allow Austin to withdraw from Texas and remain part of the United States, "in the event that Texas is successful in the current bid to secede." It had more than 8,000 signatures as of Friday.


JESSICA KOURKOUNIS / KRT
American and Texas flags fly together on a pole in downtown Overton, Texas, where the Republic of Texas group has set up shop.




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