So Long, California? Major County to Study Secession

Move by San Bernardino is a longshot, but it sends a message
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 16, 2022 2:18 PM CST
So Long, California? Major County to Study Secession
Curt Hagman, chairman of San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, stands for a photo outside his office in Chino Hills, Calif. Voters in one of Southern California's largest counties have delivered a pointed if largely symbolic message: Officials will soon begin studying whether to break free from...   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The November elections saw Californians continue to embrace progressive leadership, but voters in one of the state’s most populous counties are so frustrated with this political direction that they voted to consider seceding and forming their own state. An advisory ballot proposal approved in San Bernardino County—home to 2.2 million people—directs local officials to study the possibility of secession, per the AP. The razor-thin margin of victory is the latest sign of political unrest and economic distress in California.

This attempt to create a new state—which would be the first since Hawaii in 1959—is a longshot proposition for the county just east of Los Angeles that has suffered from sharp increases in cost of living. It would hinge on approval by the California Legislature and Congress, both of which are highly unlikely. Still, it’s significant that the vote came from a racially and ethnically diverse county that is politically mixed, as well as the fifth-most populous in the state and the largest in the nation by area. San Bernardino’s 20,000 square miles is comprised of more land than nine states.

The vote speaks to the alienation that some voters feel from a statehouse long dominated by Democrats who have made little progress on the growing homeless crisis, soaring housing costs, and rising crime rates while residents pay among the highest taxes in the country. There is "a lot of frustration overall” with state government and how public dollars are spent—with far too little coming to the county, said Curt Hagman, chairman of the Board of Supervisors that placed the proposal on the ballot. The county will look at whether billions of dollars in state and federal funds was fairly shared with local governments in the Inland Empire.

story continues below

Throughout its 172-year history, California has weathered more than 220 failed attempts to dismantle the state into as many as six smaller states, according to the California State Library. Earlier breakaway efforts sought to carve out a new “State of Jefferson” from nearly two dozen Northern California counties, though they were largely rural, conservative-leaning and sparsely populated. “A lot of Californians are unhappy in many ways,” said Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney, citing gas prices, the cost of living, and real estate prices. “The vote on secession was like smashing the china," he said. "It’s a way of getting attention but in the end it doesn’t accomplish much."

(Read more California stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.