Local Jefferson proponents are disappointed after Del Norte voters rejected a proposal to join other Northern California counties in creating a new state.
Votes in opposition led with 59 percent, according to the final count on Tuesday night. Supporters trailed with 41 percent of the vote.
The ballot initiative, Measure A, was an advisory vote to let Del Norte County supervisors know their constituents’ opinion on the current effort to create a new state, named Jefferson. Had the measure passed, the Board of Supervisors still would have had to vote on a declaration to withdraw from California in order for Del Norte to be counted among the other counties supporting Jefferson.
“I am so proud of the voters in Del Norte County for recognizing that this was not a good plan,” said Kevin Hendrick, director of the Keep It California - No on Measure A campaign. “I really hope the Board of Supervisors respect the will of the people.”
Even though he acknowledged that the people have spoken, Aaron Funk, county coordinator for the Del Norte-Jefferson Committee for Measure A, said the movement will continue to gain steam elsewhere.
“The vote was a result of misinformed voters, and that doesn’t change the value of the issue,” he said. “The state is going to move forward. There’s no doubt about it.”
Proponents of the Jefferson state movement in Del Norte said passing the advisory measure would be the first step toward ensuring better political representation for Del Norte County. It wouldn’t separate Del Norte from California but would ensure the county would continue to have a place at the table as the effort continues, they said.
When asked if his committee would continue to encourage the Board of Supervisors to vote on a declaration to withdraw from California, Funk said the Del Norte-Jefferson Committee for Measure A was created with the sole purpose of passing Measure A.
“Our place was to support what we believe was the right side of the issue of Measure A, and that was to indicate to the Board of Supervisors what those who participated in the vote felt as far as Measure A, and that’s done,” Funk said. “If the Board wants to go ahead (with the movement), we’ll see what happens.
“But again, they (voters) have spoken. This is a democratic republic. This is how it works.”
As for the Keep It California campaign, Hendrick said supporters may review the Del Norte-Jefferson Committee for Measure A’s campaign finance reports, which were turned in five days after the May 22 deadline. Hendrick said Measure A proponents may have gotten an unfair advantage by filing their information late.
“They knew what we had spent, but we had no idea what they had spent,” he said. “I think people should follow campaign rules and not take it lightly and at the very least should voluntarily pay the $10 a day fine.”
Movement’s mixed results
The local Jefferson state movement picked up speed in January shortly after Siskiyou and Modoc counties late last year approved declarations to withdraw from California.
Members of the Del Norte County State of Jefferson Declaration Committee sat outside local businesses collecting signatures to submit to the Board of Supervisors. They appeared before the Board four times in January and February with 2,000 signatures.
Supervisors approved the advisory measure at their Feb. 25 meeting.
Their decision mirrored that of Tehama County supervisors, who in February also decided to let their constituents weigh in on the issue with a ballot measure in Tuesday’s election.
Election returns in Tehama show nearly 56 percent of voters approved the ballot measure with 44 percent voting no.
In Siskiyou County, voters voted down a proposal to create a “Republic of Jefferson Territory,” which would have been established within the county’s boundaries. That effort was not connected with the current state of Jefferson movement, according to Mark Baird, a Yreka pilot who spearheaded the recent cause.
Baird said he was “sorry for the people in Del Norte County," but added there’s no limit to the number of attempts needed to create a new state.
“When Maine broke away from Massachusetts, they tried four times before they finally got their vote,” he said. “When the people really decide that they want representation and they want it more than the money, then they’ll try again.”
Earlier this year, Glenn and Yuba counties joined Siskiyou and Modoc in approving declarations to withdraw from California, and Butte County supervisors are expected to discuss a declaration to withdraw from California on June 10.
Advocates of the Jefferson state movement hope to collect enough declaration resolutions from California counties and submit them to state lawmakers for approval. A simple majority in both state houses would be needed to move the proposal to U.S. Congress, where majority approval would also be required.