How a new ballot measure would split California three ways
Gas tax. Sanctuary state. Plastic straws. Name a political topic in California and most Democrats and Republicans line up on opposite sides.
But a tech billionaire's controversial plan to divide the fifth largest economy in the world is giving leaders of the diametrically different political parties an opportunity to find common ground.
Democrats don't want to see a state they dominate get broken into three pieces. Registration data show that all three new jurisdictions would still vote blue, so it would be foolish for the GOP to hand four new US Senate seats to Democrats and flip the house. Even the State of Jefferson opposes the plan.
"It’s hard to see what the natural constituency for this proposal would even be," said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. "It’s a rich guy’s whim, and it’s going to prove to be an expensive one for the rich guy."
Tim Draper is the single largest financial supporter of his three Californias plan and has spent nearly $1.7 million on an effort to make it a reality. A founding partner of Draper Investments who counts Skype and Tesla as his major venture successes, Draper argues that the measure would establish a more representative government.
The parties aren't buying it.
"This would cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, and Congress is never going to vote to approve this," said Eric Bauman, chair of the California Democratic Party. Bauman expects his party will vote to oppose the initiative at its executive board meeting in July.
The California Republican Party gave the measure an official thumbs down in May.
“The issue is that this is a vivisection or amputation solution to eczema,” said Harmeet Dhillon, a committeewoman for the Republican National Committee and a state party board member. "We have some serious problems with the state that could be fixed by electing better representatives. I don’t think cutting the state into three pieces solves anything."
GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox opposes the measure. So does his Democratic competitor, Gavin Newsom.
Newsom told a gaggle of reporters that Draper is an old friend. He called him a "bright and capable person," but said the initiative doesn't show any evidence of that. The claimed the proposal would pit north versus south and cause all kinds of legal and constitutional problems.
"California’s success is being a cohesive state, particularly at a time in Trump and Trumpism, and now the fifth largest economy in the world," Newsom said. "Why would we cede that to splitting the state up into three?"
The 23 counties that want to split off into the State of Jefferson are opposed to the plan. The group opined in a statement that the proposal lumps the northern counties together with the San Francisco Bay Area.
"The prospect of three blue states is not very appealing to us, nor will it be to Congress," said Mark Baird, a spokesman for the State of Jefferson.