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California separatists feud over how best to carve up state

Campaigns to secede from U.S., divide into new states compete for support

By Valerie Richardson - The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2018

As far as Paul Preston is concerned, three Californias is one California too many.

The vice president and co-founder of the New California movement, Mr. Preston wants to see the state divided in two along rural-urban lines, not split into three under venture capitalist Tim Draper’s Cal 3 initiative, which goes before the voters in November.

“With Draper, he makes sure every area has an urbanized zone that will ultimately be blue. You still have the rural-urban thing going on in his formula,” said Mr. Preston, who lives in Yuba City. “The rural people will be shafted again.”

Not impressed with either plan is Yes California’s Louis Marinelli, a leader of the Calexit secession effort, who regards the two- and three-state solutions as Republican-sponsored plots to “chip away at the voice California lends to the republic as a solid blue state.”

Separatist fever is once again sweeping California, but instead of a coalescing behind one plan, those frustrated with the status quo have splintered into competing camps sparring over how best to reorganize the Golden State.

Activists argue that California as configured can no longer deal with its vast economic and social problems, but the state’s political discontent also mirrors that of the nation, said Dan Schnur, professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications.

“I think the same type of voter frustration that leads people to Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders is the fuel behind these types of efforts,” said Mr. Schnur. “When you’re one of 40 million people, you don’t feel like you’re getting enough attention, and this [Cal 3] is a solution that will give you three times as much attention.”

The Cal 3 measure jumped to the forefront in April by clearing the signature hurdle and qualifying for the Nov. 6 ballot, stealing the thunder from Yes California, which is circulating petitions to qualify the state independence measure for the 2020 election.

Then there’s the State of Jefferson movement, which aims to create a 51st state in rural Northern California and has a lawsuit pending against California for “lack of representation and dilution of vote.”

Taking a different route is New California. The group has focused on gathering grassroots support in rural counties, with plans to hold a July 21 constitutional convention at the Harris Ranch Inn in Coalinga as organizers prepare to make their case to the state legislature.

Mr. Preston argued that the ballot strategy is the wrong one, citing Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which says new states can only be split off from old states “with the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

Instead, the Cal 3 initiative, which would create the states of Southern California, California and Northern California within the existing boundaries, directs the governor to ask Congress for approval, then directs the state legislature to divvy up the assets.

“The three Californias measure is dead on arrival,” said Mr. Preston. “It’s not constitutionally sound, and everybody recognizes it. Everybody I’ve been talking to — and I get flooded because we’ve got 50 counties engaged in our program — everybody’s absolutely appalled by it.”

The Draper measure divides California into three states with dominant urban centers and splits up the rural counties, leading to criticism that their issues will remain on the back burner, and creates two deep blue states and one swing state.

The billionaire Draper, who bankrolled the “six Californias” effort that fizzled in 2014, is expected to throw his considerable resources behind Cal 3, which is expected to face a stiff legal challenge in the unlikely event that it passes.

“I think the rest of the country will just want to do what’s right for California,” Mr. Draper told Fox host Tucker Carlson. “It takes up the same land mass as 15 states on the East Coast. The population is the equivalent of an average of six or seven states. So I think it’s appropriate to have California represented by at least three states.”

So far there’s no indication that any of the groups are interested in joining forces.

Cal 3 organizers have emphasized that the three-state initiative is not the same as Calexit, which would spin off California as its own independent nation, while Mr. Marinelli has blamed the other campaigns for sowing confusion.

The competing proposals have “done nothing but confuse the voters of California about what Calexit is,” leading to questions about what the differences are and whether the measures are related.

“These are questions we have today that we didn’t have before,” said Mr. Marinelli in an email.

“Makes us feel as though there is a concerted effort out there to confuse the voters — outright criminal what Tim Draper is doing. Even his Twitter handle is YesCal2.”

While Cal 3 and New California have downplayed the partisan impact of their proposals, Yes California is unabashedly liberal, positioning itself as a solution to the blue state’s escalating conflict with the conservative Trump administration.

Mr. Marinelli and co-founder Marcus Ruiz Evans, who have organized proposals for California independence since 2014, contend the other measures are politically suspect, setting up states that would give Republicans more clout than they currently enjoy in blue-state California.

“It brings gerrymandering to a whole new level – the level of creating not just new congressional districts to favor one party over the other after a census report, but of new states!” said Mr. Marinelli.

Mr. Preston agreed that there’s no chance of a merger, saying that Calexit is “not something we would remotely support.”

“That’s secession. That’s what happened in the Civil War,” said Mr. Preston. “They want to create a new country, and that’s just not going to happen. First of all, it’s illegal under our Constitution. There’s no base out here to support that.”

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