California’s Major County Takes A Step Toward Secession

While Californians embraced progressive leadership in Nov., voters in one of the state’s most populated counties voted to consider seceding and forming their own state. In San Bernardino County, an advisory ballot proposal directed local officials to investigate the possibility of secession. It is the latest sign that California is experiencing economic distress and political unrest.

The creation of a new state is a long shot proposition for the county just east of Los Angeles, which has experienced sharp rises in living costs. Congress and the California Legislature would have to approve it, both highly unlikely.

Despite that, the votes came from one of the biggest counties by size in the nation and one of the most racially diverse counties in the state. It has a land area larger than nine states and is the largest county in California.

It is evident from the votes that some voters feel alienated and powerless by a Democratic-controlled statehouse that has done virtually nothing to address a growing homeless crisis, soaring housing costs, and a rise in crime while residents pay some of 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 chairman of the board of supervisors Curt Hagman, who proposed the measure. The county will examine hundreds of millions of state and federal funds. “It’s been a rough few years” for residents due to record inflation and COVID-19 pandemic policies, Hagman said.

As chair of the San Bernardino County Democratic Party Kristin Washington dismissed the measure as a political maneuver to turn out conservative voters. “Putting it on a ballot was a waste of time for the voters,” she said. “The option of actually seceding from the state is not even something that is realistic because of all the steps that actually go into it.”

Democratic voters now outnumber Republicans by 12 points in San Bernardino County. Even so, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom lost by five points in Nov. He easily won reelection despite pandemic health orders shutting down schools and businesses.