CAL­I­FOR­NIA DREAM­ING

‘Wacky’ bal­lot ini­tia­tive would split state into three political ju­ris­dic­tions

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Repub­li­cans dis­miss­ing the “three Cal­i­for­nias” bal­lot ini­tia­tive as an­other nutty idea from Left Coast lib­er­als might want to take a closer look at the pro­posed state lines.

The mea­sure, which qual­i­fied Tues­day for the Nov. 6 bal­lot, would di­vide Cal­i­for­nia into three states, in­clud­ing one dubbed “South­ern Cal­i­for­nia” that would in­clude San Diego, Or­ange County and the Cen­tral Val­ley — but not Los An­ge­les County — for a ju­ris­dic­tion with real red-state pos­si­bil­i­ties.

“Would that ex­cite Repub­li­cans? Sure,” said Los An­ge­les-based political strate­gist Darry Sragow. “If I were a Repub­li­can, I might say, ‘Well, this could be our turf.’”

Ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Tim Draper, the ini­tia­tive’s brain­child, has touted Cal 3 as a “fresh start” that will de­liver im­prove­ments in ed­u­ca­tion, in­fra­struc­ture and tax pol­icy, but its po­ten­tial to up­end the na­tional political map by spin­ning off new states makes it im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the par­ti­san im­pli­ca­tions.

For Democrats, who al­ready con­trol Cal­i­for­nia as a vir­tual one-party state, there is no up­side, while Repub­li­cans have lit­tle to lose after watching their reg­is­tra­tion num­bers fall in May be­hind those of vot­ers with no party pref­er­ence.

The ini­tia­tive would re­place blue Cal­i­for­nia with a po­ten­tially red state and two even bluer states: “North­ern

Cal­i­for­nia,” which would in­clude San Fran­cisco and Sacramento, and “Cal­i­for­nia,” which would run along the coast from Los An­ge­les to Mon­terey.

Such a change would in­stantly make Repub­li­cans more com­pet­i­tive in pres­i­den­tial con­tests, giv­ing the party a crack at win­ning some of Cal­i­for­nia’s 55 elec­toral votes for the first time since 1988.

Repub­li­cans have all but con­ceded Cal­i­for­nia in re­cent pres­i­den­tial races. Even so, vot­ers in the pro­posed state of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia swung for Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney in 2012, said Vikram David Amar, Univer­sity of Illi­nois Col­lege of Law pro­fes­sor.

“Be­cause the newly created ‘South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’ state could eas­ily vote for a Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date (as noted above, Mitt Rom­ney beat Barack Obama in 2012 in this re­gion) and give its 18 or so elec­tors to a Repub­li­can, then Democrats would run a se­ri­ous risk mov­ing from a 55-0 ad­van­tage in Cal­i­for­nia to some­thing like 41-18,” Mr. Amar said in a Sept. 8 post on Ver­dict.

The ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the Se­nate are mixed. If “South­ern Cal­i­for­nia” sends two Repub­li­cans to the Se­nate — and “Cal­i­for­nia” and “North­ern Cal­i­for­nia” send four Democrats — then the par­ti­san bal­ance re­mains the same as to­day, with Democrats hav­ing a two-sen­a­tor edge.

On the other hand, if “South­ern Cal­i­for­nia” split its Se­nate rep­re­sen­ta­tion, di­vid­ing 5-1 in­stead of 4-2, then Repub­li­cans lose ground.

“I would be care­ful what you wish for,” said Mr. Sragow, pub­lisher of the Cal­i­for­nia Tar­get Book. “We all know that the law of un­in­tended con­se­quences is alive and well.”

In­deed, the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can Party has opted to stiff-arm the Cal 3 pro­posal.

“At our most re­cent con­ven­tion, our del­e­gates over­whelm­ingly ac­cepted the rec­om­men­da­tion of our Ini­tia­tives Com­mit­tee to op­pose this mea­sure,” said Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can Party spokesman Matthew Flem­ing.

Steven Mav­iglio, spokesman for OneCal­i­for­nia, which op­poses the Cal 3 pro­posal, ar­gued that Repub­li­cans have fought too hard against hand­ing a pair of Se­nate seats to Wash­ing­ton to take such a risk.

“The trend line is go­ing against them,” Mr. Mav­iglio said. “Repub­li­can num­bers in this state are va­por­iz­ing, and the Democrats con­tinue to in­crease. That part of the state is more Latino and get­ting more Latino than the rest of the state. I don’t see how the num­bers could work out. It’s pretty risky at best.”

His group, headed by for­mer As­sem­bly Speaker Fabian Nunez, has been ham­mer­ing at the pro­posal for months, ac­cus­ing Mr. Draper of drag­ging the state into an ex­pen­sive mud fight for a mea­sure that has no prospects for suc­cess.

A KPIX5/Sur­veyUSA poll re­leased April 24 found that only 17 per­cent sup­ported Cal 3, while 72 were op­posed and 10 per­cent were un­de­cided.

“This, to me, is a mas­sive abuse of our ini­tia­tive sys­tem,” said Mr. Mav­iglio. “Be­cause a bil­lion­aire can write a check to get a wacky idea on the bal­lot, he has to sub­ject the whole state to a cam­paign?”

On the other hand, said Mr. Sragow, the quirky, in­ven­tive pro­posal has in­fused “a lit­tle fun into what will be a pretty hard-fought gen­eral elec­tion.”

“I don’t think any­body can look at this mea­sure and not crack a smile,” said Mr. Sragow, a fifth­gen­er­a­tion Cal­i­for­nian. “It raises a le­git­i­mate pol­icy ques­tion, but it also strikes peo­ple as some­thing that we Cal­i­for­ni­ans are known for, which is that we do things that are a lit­tle bit wacky.”

The ini­tia­tive, which eas­ily cleared the sig­na­ture­gath­er­ing bar, would di­rect the gov­er­nor to ask Congress for per­mis­sion to split the states into the three en­ti­ties and charge the state leg­is­la­ture with di­vid­ing up Cal­i­for­nia’s as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties.

Mr. Draper’s pre­vi­ous “six Cal­i­for­nias” mea­sure failed to qual­ify for the 2016 bal­lot based in part on con­cerns about eco­nomic in­equities among the pro­posed states, but his lat­est plan cre­ates three states with about 13 mil­lion res­i­dents each and less of an in­come di­vide.

“Mean­ing­ful im­prove­ment has proven im­pos­si­ble through the Sacramento sys­tem of top-down con­trol,” said the Cal 3 web­site. “This isn’t about pol­i­tics — this is about sus­tain­able so­lu­tions to in­tractable is­sues that im­pact Cal­i­for­ni­ans every day — like our lo­cal schools, in­fra­struc­ture and govern­ment re­spon­sive­ness.”

The Cal 3 ini­tia­tive comes with in­ter­est grow­ing in plans to break up or break off Cal­i­for­nia. A mea­sure to have Cal­i­for­nia se­cede from the union, known as CalExit, is still in the sig­na­ture-gath­er­ing stage.

In agri­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties, sup­port is build­ing for a pro­posal to split Cal­i­for­nia into two by cre­at­ing a ru­ral-based sec­ond state called New Cal­i­for­nia.

Mr. Sragow is look­ing for­ward to see­ing how the Cal 3 race plays out.

“It’s kind of in­ter­est­ing,” he said. “It could be met with crick­ets, but it’s an ex­per­i­ment, and [Mr. Draper] deserves credit for do­ing this.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

GREAT DI­VIDE: Red Cal­i­for­nia and blue Cal­i­for­nia would have their own states un­der a pro­posal ap­proved for the Nov. 6 bal­lot to split the state into three. Such a change would in­stantly make Repub­li­cans more com­pet­i­tive in pres­i­den­tial con­tests but...

NEW DI­REC­TION: San Fran­cisco would be in “North­ern Cal­i­for­nia” un­der the plan by ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Tim Draper.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

The sprawl­ing ru­ral wine coun­try is placed in “North­ern Cal­i­for­nia” un­der the Cal 3 plan, which ap­pears to have lit­tle chance of suc­cess in the Novem­ber elec­tions.

San Diego, but not Los An­ge­les, would be part of “South­ern Cal­i­for­nia,” a new ju­ris­dic­tion that could send a wave of Repub­li­cans to Wash­ing­ton.

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