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Baja Arizona? Annoyed with Legislature, group wants Pima County to form new state

The Pima County Courthouse in Tucson is one place Start Our State considers a potential new state capitol.<br /> (Photo by Channing Turner/Cronkite News Service)

The Pima County Courthouse in Tucson is one place Start Our State considers a potential new state capitol. (Photo by Channing Turner/Cronkite News Service)

Gazing up at the mosaic dome of the old Pima County Courthouse, Paul Eckerstrom sees a potential capitol building for a 51st state: Baja Arizona.

Pima County politicians have joked about the idea of political separation from more-conservative Maricopa County for decades. But the Legislature’s recent moves on topics including immigration caused Eckerstrom and others to stop laughing and form a political committee advocating that this county of more than 1 million people leave Arizona and create a new state.

“We want to make this a serious effort, at least to send a message up to Phoenix – a message to the country – that we want moderation in our state,” said Eckerstrom, former Democratic Party chairman for Pima County and co-chairman of a group calling itself Start Our State.

Controversial immigration bills, cuts to university funding and efforts to nullify federal laws also prompted the group to act, Eckerstrom said.

“People here are kind of at the breaking point,” he said. “The final straw was the nullification bills going through the Senate right now … that are frankly secession from our country, and we down here want to stay in the United States – we want to be American.”

David Euchner, the group’s treasurer and former chairman of the county’s Libertarian Party, said recent legislation on immigration and abortion pushed him over the edge.

“As much as I disagree with what Barack Obama has done or what our Democratic Congress did the last two years, I much more strongly disagree with what Russell Pearce and Jan Brewer have done to our state government,” he said.

Start Our State filed for official committee status last week, making it the first political committee to pursue creating a new state, Eckerstrom said.

The group wants to put a non-binding resolution addressing the issue before Pima County voters in 2012. If approved, the measure would come to a vote in either the Legislature or a statewide referendum.

If all of that were to pass, Congress and the president would have to approve the new state.

Euchner said the movement welcomes other counties, but each would need to conduct its own referendum.

Then there’s the proposed state’s name, which would also be up to voters. Eckerstrom said he has received several suggestions, including Baja Arizona, South Arizona and Gadsden, in reference to the 1854 Gadsden Purchase of southern Arizona from Mexico.

Democratic Sens. Paula Aboud and Linda Lopez, of Tucson, supported a tongue-in-cheek amendment last week to allow Pima County to secede in an attempt to dissuade passage of a bill establishing a committee to nullify federal laws, Lopez said. The Senate Committee of the Whole rejected the amendment.

“Unbeknownst to us, down here in Pima County they were talking seriously about becoming their own state,” Lopez said. “I support their right to want to do that, but I don’t know how it would work in actuality.”

Tucson mayoral candidate Ron Asta, a Republican, said he doubts voters would ever approve of a separation, particularly in the more conservative areas surrounding Tucson.

“I don’t think they’ll be in favor of it,” he said. “There’s a real strong conservative challenge.”

Jeff Rogers, chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, said he thinks voters might approve a separation, but he said political pressures in Congress make the measure’s final passage very unlikely.

“The logistics of it seem to fall apart,” he said.

While Eckerstrom and Euchner agree that their movement faces difficulties, they said support will only grow if the Legislature continues on its current course.

“If given the choice between seceding from the Union to stay with Arizona and seceding from Arizona to stay part of the Union, I choose the latter hands down,” Euchner said.

State splits:
• Maine: After four consecutive voter referendums pressed the issue, the Massachusetts Legislature agreed to grant Maine independence as part of the Missouri Compromise in 1820.
• West Virginia: West Virginia split from Confederate Virginia in 1861 to remain in the Union during the Civil War.


  1. Have visited Arizona many times on vacation. Decided to boycott visits and travel elsewhere due to Draconian measures of Gov. Brewer and her ilk. A kinder, gentler, more humanitarian Arizona (Baja Arizona) would be very appealing to me and I would definitely spend my vacation dollars there. Suspect many others would do the same.

  2. I say, let the Old Pueblo go! We in Maricopa county are tired of paying for their them with our tax dollars. Let’s see how the Baja would support itself as a state when all the wealthy leave to Phoenix in support of lower taxes. Oh how we grow weary of supporting Tucson’s ridiculous utopian’s ideas up here.

  3. If SB1070 is “draconian” Bella Grocella, then by your definition all laws prohibiting breaking and entering your home are equally draconian? Nothing in SB1070 is different from current existing Federal Immigration Law. All we are asking for is the same protection on our borders we are permitted in our homes, NO TRESPASS. As for secession, my question is who drew their new map showing their far Western border to California and their far Eastern border to New Mexico? How does Pima County get to absorb portions of Yuma, [all of Santa Cruz] and Cochise Counties? What, are they going to conquer their neighboring counties? What a waste of time and energy. Instead of focusing on teaching personal responsibility, all are running around whining about not those of us that want our border protected from illegal entry.

  4. Ya got my vote. I live in GV and ashamed to say Brewer is our gov.

  5. This is fun to watch. I don’t get it. A 51st state? I can’t help but think that this would be the first step in Mexico’s aspirations to take pieces of the US “back” to the motherland. At some point there should be some sanity.

  6. Governor Brewer: Pro-gun, anti-Medicare, anti-patients in need of organ transplants to live. Is it true she has vested interest in privatized prisons? Running from reporters…not exactly leadership qualities. Arizona, your reputation as a getaway haven is fading fast. Will vacation elsewhere. Too bad…Arizona is a beautiful state.

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