Arizona's conservative politics - and Phoenix's dominant role -
lead some in Tucson to call for secession. It's a divide that dates
back to the 1800s.
There is a whiff of revolution on Fourth Avenue in Tucson. Inside
a pub crowded with copper-clad tables sit Democrats - lots of them -
often wondering aloud how they came to live in a state like this.
Phoenix, their northern neighbor and the state capital, is only a
two-hour drive away, yet it is a different universe. In this pub
packed with politicos and professors, the actions of Phoenix and the
statehouse there are viewed with as much exasperation as in any East
Coast blue state.
The Legislature passes a bill requiring police officers to ask
for the documents of anyone they stop who looks like an illegal
immigrant. The sheriff of Pima County, which includes Tucson, calls
it "stupid" and refuses to enforce it. The state passes a law to ban
all ethnic studies at public schools. Students at Tucson Unified
School District storm a school meeting and chain themselves to
And here at the Shanty pub, Paul Eckerstrom has had enough.
Meeting weekly with fellow malcontents, he is plotting how best to
free his city from the tyrannies of Phoenix. His organization is
Start Our State, and its goal is nothing less than a 51st state:
"There's always been kind of a resentment that Phoenix dominates
Arizona politics and therefore they tell us what to do," says Mr.
Eckerstrom, a former Pima County Democratic Party chairman. "They
say they don't want the federal government to meddle in state
politics, but they're interfering with our county and municipal
Elements within Washington, D.C., have long agitated for
statehood. A Long Island lawmaker has endorsed a study to
investigate whether the island should become its own state. Puerto
Rico has also flirted with the idea. Fringe movements in Texas and
Alaska advocate independence.
For its part, Start Our State is a long shot. But its founders
say they are serious, and their efforts are a parable of how the
dramatically red-blue divide that has split the country is now
splitting a single state.
The political divide between Pima County and Maricopa County,
which includes Phoenix, is evident in voter registration records. In
Pima County, 38 percent of registered voters are Democrats, with 31
percent Republicans, and 30 percent "other." The numbers are
reversed in Maricopa, with 37 percent Republican, 29 percent
Democrat, and 33 percent other.
These differences - and the ideologies underlying them - are
perhaps most obvious in the two counties' sheriffs.
Not only did Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik vow not to
enforce the state's controversial SB 1070 immigration law, he
singled out conservative commentators such as Sarah Palin for blame
when an assassination attempt targeted Democratic Rep. Gabrielle
Giffords. Meanwhile, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has gained
notoriety as perhaps the most strident advocate of get-tough illegal-
immigration policies in the country. …