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California secession organizers encouraged despite split vote

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2014

California voters in two northern rural counties split the difference Tuesday on two ballot measures aimed at carving out a 51st state called Jefferson, but the half-loaf result hasn't discouraged the movement's organizers.

Mark Baird, an organizer of the Jefferson Declaration movement, said he was encouraged by the outcome in Tehama County, where voters approved by 56 percent to 44 percent a measure asking whether the county should adopt "a Declaration of Support for the proposed separation from the State of California and formation of a new state."

But voters in Del Norte County defeated the same proposal by a 59-41 margin. There, the measure faced stiff opposition from Keep It California, which was supported by the AFL-CIO and SEIU as well as the county Democratic Central Committee.

"I don't feel bad about Del Norte County. I genuinely don't. I feel bad for Del Norte County," said Mr. Baird.

Despite the setback in Del Norte, Mr. Baird said enthusiasm for the 51st state proposal is building. The Butte County board of supervisors is scheduled to vote later this month on a measure supporting a "separation from the state of California and formation of a new state," while the Sutter County board is slated to consider the issue in July.

Meanwhile, Mr. Baird said he's preparing a presentation for a July town hall in Lake County, where the board of supervisors includes three Democrats, because "their economy has been devastated by the regulations that issue from lower California."

"This is not the end for Del Norte unless they choose for it to be. But it's definitely not the end of the state of Jefferson," said Mr. Baird. "We're going gangbusters. We can't even keep up, we get so many inquiries to give presentations and invitations from counties."

Kevin Hendrick, campaign director of Keep It California, said he was heartened by the Del Norte vote. The group had argued that Measure A would further impoverish the county by removing state funding for schools and other services and also could result in the closing of the state prison in Crescent City.

"I'm really proud of the people in this county for recognizing a bad deal when they see one," Mr. Hendrick told the Del Norte Triplicate. "I really hope the Board of Supervisors respect the will of the people."

Tuesday's elections were the first since the movement began less than a year ago. Supervisors in four counties — Glenn, Modoc, Siskiyou and Yuba — have already voted to join the Jefferson Declaration movement.

Supporters of the Jefferson Declaration argue that the northern rural counties have seen their economies crippled by state taxes and regulations pushed by the Democratic-led state legislature, which is dominated by lawmakers from urban and suburban districts.

California's northern 12 counties share one state senator, versus 10 for San Francisco and 20 for Los Angeles.

During the campaign, advocates dotted the counties with large green banners reading, "Coming Soon/Welcome to Jefferson/The 51st State/God Bless America."

Mr. Baird said it's entirely possible the movement could try again in Del Norte County, pointing out that it took Maine three attempts before it was able to split off from Massachusetts in 1820 and become the state it now is.

"Just because you lose one vote in one place, gosh, we're not kids. We never expected to win 100 percent of them 100 percent of the time," said Mr. Baird. "But we're never going to stop, never ever, until we get representation for Northern California."

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