Sunday, April 19, 2009




It's not that Bill Maze and the Central Valley farm interests now helping him hate the Pacific Ocean. Nor do those supporting his newest idea think splitting California would be a great thing for most people in the state.

Nope, the frustration behind their effort to divide the state on something like an east-west basis comes from a conviction that their conservative ideologies are doomed forever to minority status in the existing California. In short, as things now stand they have no hope of winning much of anything.

Never mind that three of the last four governors have been Republicans. Never mind that state legislators for the first time ever will not draw their own district lines in the next reapportionment, set to come just after the 2010 Census. Nope, these conservative Republicans are ready to give up right now. They want to take their marbles and go home.

That's the essence of the plan promoted by Maze, a termed out Republican member of the state Assembly from Visalia, previously best known for proposing a law foridding motorists from driving with dogs on their laps.

You know Maze & Co. don't hate the ocean because their proposed breakaway state would include San Diego and Orange counties, along with all 43 inland counties from Imperial to Siskiyou, plus the coastal northern counties of Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte. They would cut loose the 13 coastal and San Francisco Bay area counties from Los Angeles to Marin to go their own way.

This idea is purely political, of course. Yes, the North Coast counties have tended to vote Democratic in the last few elections, and even though San Diego voted for Barak Obama last year, they would still be the only solidly Demo parts of the breakaway state. So this putative new state - perhaps called Bifurkifornia - would be assured of a Republican governor and legislature, two Republican U.S. senators and a predominantly GOP delegation in the House.

Of course, doing this would require not only permission from Congress - which might not go along with a plan for two new Republican senators. For one thing, two new senators from another large urban state (one including San Diego, Santa Ana, Riverside, San Bernardino, Fresno, Sacramento and lots of other sizeable cities) would dilute the clout of existing small-state senators.

Even if Congress went along, a popular vote approval in the entire existing state would also be needed. Good luck.

That's never been achieved in 27 previous attempts to divide California, all of them on a more logical-seeming north-south basis, with the dividing line usually somewhere just north or south of Bakersfield.

The issues in most of those attempts were water and a fear by northern residents that the larger population in Southern California would eventually leave them little voice in their own affairs.

Of course, things have not worked out precisely that way. Of California's two senators, one is a former mayor of San Francisco, the other a former Marin County supervisor. Among the vast corps of current potential candidates for governor, only one is a Southern Californian. That would be Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and no one knows how seriously he will be taken now that he's won reelection with only 55 percent of the vote against 10 complete unknowns, none of whom could spend more than $200,000 on the race - a paltry sum in Los Angeles politics.

So it's not as if the north were being ignored. Not when the last two presidents of the state Senate have been Northern Californians, not when the two leading Republican candidates for governor in early polls hail from the Silicon Valley.

But the Maze plan, along with its very different dividing lines, also has very different motivation. The idea here is to roll back environmental and labor laws he and his supporters think are burdensome for business and farming.

"Citizens of our once-Golden State are frustrated and desperately concerned about the imposition of burdensome regulations, taxes, fees, fees and more fees and bureaucratic intrustion…," rails his Web site, called "Downsize California Now."

The group also doesn't like a lot of the social ideas percolating inland from the coastal counties it would like to get rid of. "We certainly can no longer overlook the radical-thinking paradigms that have invaded California, particularly in the last two decades," adds the message, which can be found online at:

So far, this idea is drawing more ridicule than support. And that's probably the way it should be, given the obstacle course any effort to split a state must run.

Email Thomas Elias at For more Elias columns, visit

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