2 Secessionist Movements Vie to Split California; 1 Group’s Leader Aims for Shasta County CEO Seat

All kinds of flags dotted the sky at the “Stop the Steal” protest event that boiled over into the attack on the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A few attendees waved the Confederate flag. Others held up the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag. Christian nationalists displayed the “Appeal to Heaven” Evergreen flag. Even the flag that represents the movement that seeks to separate far Northern California from the rest of the state to form the State of Jefferson made an appearance. The State of Jefferson flag was extended into the air not far from the New California State flag.

The New California State flag at the “Stop the Steal” protest.

New California State is a nonprofit organization that seeks to separate all of California’s inland counties from Sacramento County and counties in the Bay Area on the state’s central coast.

Chriss Street has served as New California State’s vice president since 2018.

The Shasta County Board of Supervisors majority recently offered Street the County Executive Officer position, pending a background check. The annual salary for Shasta County’s CEO position is more than $299,000.

According to Street’s statements in various recent North State interviews, if he becomes Shasta County’s CEO, he will step down from his New California State leadership position.

In a special closed session meeting at 8 a.m. on March 28, the supervisors learned the outcome of the formal investigation into Street’s background; information that is unavailable to the public. Street was given five days to respond to those findings.

But just hours before the supervisors convened for that special meeting for an employee appointment, A News Cafe reported that the Redding Police Department was looking into a filed complaint with allegations against Street. Since then, new information has been made public that the complaint to RPD involved at least one incident that pertained to a female teenager at the Shasta Family YMCA.

A News Cafe reached out to YMCA director Kristen Lyons for comment. She directed questions regarding Street to the Redding Police Department, but said the YMCA is committed to providing a “safe, welcoming place” for all members.

“We serve thousands of North State residents every week in our fitness centers, programs and pools and we constantly review, improve and invest in our systems and procedures for safety,” Lyons said via email.

Photo source: Shasta Family YMCA website.

Street’s pledged allegiance to New California State

Chriss Street responds to Mike Mangas of KRCR for an interview. Photo source: KRCR video screengrab.

Street’s role as the vice president of New California State is a significant part of his background. Since getting involved with the secessionist group, Street has given speeches throughout California to promote New California State. Street’s statements feature a disparate mixture of cherry-picked historical misinformation.

At a New California State talk in Placer County in 2020, Street said California led the U.S. into the Great Depression because the production of oil decreased. In the same talk, Street said that California’s controversial Proposition 13, which was passed by voters in 1978, kicked off a technology boom in the state. Street said in the talk that California’s economy booms and busts in 45-year cycles. He said when California’s economy tanks, it pulls down the rest of the country with it. Street’s sales pitch for New California State was hard to follow from a logical standpoint, but he has a way of convincingly performing the role of a highly intelligent person.

Chriss Street gives a talk in Placer County (top) and Shasta County (bottom.]

At a talk in Shasta County in 2020, Street claimed that during the Mexican Period, California’s indigenous peoples did not accept the lands around the missions originally founded by the Spanish when the Secularization Laws were passed in the 1830s. Street said indigenous peoples preferred to be wage laborers rather accept the free land.

In reality, Mexican authorities only offered land to a small number of indigenous people who had lived around missions, and the majority who became wage laborers, or, in many cases, unpaid and exploited white settlers’ servants who worked in that capacity out of necessity and for their survival.

In a recent interview, Street said he became involved with New California State because he believes the division of California into two states is inevitable. New California State has built what Street calls a “shadow government” in California, which includes training people to serve in the New California State assembly and senate per its creation.

At New California State’s 2019 Constitutional Convention, the organization’s leaders nominated conservative Republican Rick Perry as New California State’s interim governor. Perry is the former governor of Texas who ran for president in 2012 and 2016. During the time of Perry’s nomination as New California’s interim governor, he also served as U.S. Secretary of Energy under former President Donald Trump. When Perry ran for president in 2012, he accused President Obama of waging a war against Christians.

“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, said Perry in a 2012 presidential campaign commercial, “but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school”.

Street believes that the state spends too much money in Democrat-filled urban centers. However, the fact remains that inland counties receive the most social spending in California, while some of the counties that generate the most state money for social spending are the counties from which New California State leaders want to separate.

New California State Flag.

New California State leaders seek to develop inland California’s infrastructure with public and private partnerships. New California State leadership also proposes that if their state is created, six new dams and more than 30 natural gas power plants should be built. Their stated goals behind these proposals is to create more water storage, and decrease the cost of utilities. New California State leaders would also like to see more manufacturing jobs that require trade school and community college degrees in places like Shasta County.

Orange County and San Diego County on the south coast portion of the state, and Mendocino County, Humboldt County, and Del Norte on the state’s northern coast, would make up New California’s only coastal counties. While some argue that New California State seeks to separate California’s rural and urban counties, this is not the case. Representatives of New California State say the organization’s goal is to separate California’s urban regions from its rural and suburban environments – which is also not the case.

Several counties in the proposed boundaries of New California State have urban centers with large populations. Orange County and San Diego County, for example, contain about 6.3 million people, and are also home to a larger number of Republican voters. More than 1.2 million voters in those two counties voted for President Trump in the 2020 presidential election; more than 21 percent of the votes Trump received in California. Moreover, as many as 70 to 80 percent of voters selected President Trump in the 2020 presidential election in some of Orange County’s and San Diego County’s voting precincts.

New California State also wants to include in its proposed state the combined 5.5 million people in Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Kern County. Nearly 1 million voters in these counties cast their ballot for President Trump in 2020 – and they contain large, urban municipalities.

In reality, if New California State seceded it would be home to a greater balance between Republican and Democrat voters than what is seen in California today.

New California State’s evolution

Yuba City-based conservative radio talk show host Robert “Paul” Preston is the founder and president of New California State. Based upon information gleaned directly from Preston’s website, speeches, podcasts and radio programs, he’s been identified as an Islamophobic, white supremacist Christian nationalist, and a fervent anti-communist witch hunter.

On the New California State webpage, Preston says that the United Nations is pushing a Nazi, Islamist, totalitarian and communist agenda to “remove you from your land, take your property, manipulate our economy, take away our Constitutional rights and depopulate the planet”.

New California State is 501 (c)(4) nonprofit organization. With this, New California State is allowed to engage in some partisan activity and support political candidates, but partisan activity cannot be its primary purpose. Despite this policy, New California State appears to be a heavily partisan organization.

The organization’s webpage encourages supporters to make donations that range from $25 to $2,500. “Contribute to a New California and we will give you information that will help you STAND YOUR GROUND,” says the organization’s webpage. C4s are not required to share the names of donors and are notorious for being used to support political candidates and causes with “dark money.”

A recent meme posted on the NCS website illustrates many members’ ideological mindsets.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, New California’s State’s annual revenue since 2017 has not exceeded $50,000. New State California chapters in San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County had their nonprofit statuses revoked in 2021 and 2022 due to not filing the required financial paperwork for three consecutive years.

Preston also runs a company known as American Exceptionalism News that, according to online records, was issued a franchise tax board suspension in 2021 for failing to meet tax requirements.

Under American Exceptionalism News, Preston operates a news website that pushes far-right misinformation. He also publishes podcasts on Agenda 21 Radio. The podcast is named after a United Nations program long-targeted by far-right conspiracy theorists known as Agenda 21. In one episode, Preston said there is a conspiracy in California against white people. In another, he compared Gov. Jerry Brown to Adolf Hitler.

Shasta County CEO hopeful Chriss Street, who is good friends with Preston, makes regular guest appearances on Preston’s podcast. He most recently appeared on March 22.

Robert “Paul” Preston on his Agenda 21 Radio podcast (top) and Preston giving a talk in Modesto (bottom left) and Shasta County (bottom right).

According to its website, the formation of New California State is necessary for numerous reasons. The website lists the so-called “invasion” of undocumented immigrants and the threat of “mob violence” as key issues driving the organization’s push for secession. “A tyrant is running our state,” says the website, in reference to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

New California State’s webpage also claims Republican voters are denied representation in California. New California State calls for “election integrity” in California, despite the fact that there is no evidence that supports the position that the Golden State is home to election fraud or malfunctioning voting machines.

Why Does Street appeal to Shasta County’s board majority?

A News Cafe reached out to all Shasta County Supervisors for comment regarding Street’s involvement in a secessionist organization. District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert was the only supervisor to respond.

Dist. 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert

“I lean toward a CEO who would serve all of the residents of the county,” said Rickert. “I want what’s best for everyone”.

Rickert could not comment specifically about Street. Although she confirmed tomorrow’s special closed-session Board of Supervisors meeting, she declined to discuss any details about that meeting, or speculate about its outcome.

Former District 2 Shasta County Supervisor Leonard Moty is at liberty to speak freely regarding Street. Moty’s guess is that Street was brought in to serve as what Moty calls a “hand-picked puppet” for the Board of Supervisors’ hard-right majority.

Former District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty was recalled in a baseless election.

Moty said he suspects the hiring of Street was not the result of a unanimous vote by the supervisors.

“It reminds me of the whole SOJ thing,” said Moty in reference to the State of Jefferson secessionist movement. “It’s a waste of time.”

Moty said he agrees in principle that far rural Northern California needs more political representation; a central argument in the State of Jefferson movement. However, Moty also said that the leaders of secessionist groups like the State of Jefferson and New California State “care more about getting people politically fired up rather than dealing with the basic issues that matter”.

Moty said that the Shasta County Board of Supervisor’s far-right majority – comprised of District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye, District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones, District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom, and to some extent, District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman – care more about pushing their agenda than good governance. Moty added that this is “very destructive for the county”.

Plumb crazy for New California State

Patty and Ron Plumb protest outside the Shasta County Elections office in 2022.

The Shasta County chapter of New State California is led by Ronald Plumb and Patty Plumb. The Plumbs are married, and are well known far-right MAGA Christian nationalist activists in Shasta County, and routine public-comment speakers at Shasta County Board of Supervisors meetings.

Patty Plumb in particular is often depicted on the NCS website.

She is a frequent speaker on various related podcasts, at NCS conventions, and  Paul Preston’s A21R Agenda 21 Radio programs.

Patty Plumb traveled to Washington D.C. as a “delegate representative” for New California last month. Plumb returned from D.C. just in time to attend a Shasta County Supervisors meeting.

At the meeting, Plumb stepped to the microphone during the public comment section dressed in her Sunday best to call people who disagree with her far-right agenda “uncircumcised Philistines”.

Ronald and Patty Plumb and Robert “Paul” Preston. Patty Plumb at a New California State event and the New California State seals.

New California State problems

In 2020, New California State joined a Nevada secessionist movement to file an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought on by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election. The same year, Preston was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom and California State Secretary Alex Padilla. The lawsuit claimed mail-in ballots are illegal.

In 2022, Preston was named as one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that New California State members were disenfranchised because their votes were not accurately counted during the June of 2022 primary election.

Photograph of a New California State table at an event.

The New California State movement differs significantly from the State of Jefferson movement. (Read more about the State of Jefferson in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of my series here on A News Cafe.)

The State of Jefferson movement’s goal is to separate counties in California’s rural far north from the rest of the state.

The boundaries of the State of Jefferson proposed by the second wave of supporters includes 23 counties in the northern portion of the state. The southern boundary line is flanked by Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador and El Dorado counties, and it includes everything north of the area between Placer and Mendocino counties.

The region is currently home to only a few of California’s congressional districts, due to the size of the population.

New California State, on the other hand, would be home to both a much larger population and a more diverse population than the State of Jefferson if it were to be created. New California would also be home to a stronger and more diverse economic sector.

Like the State of Jefferson movement, supporters of New California argue Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution supports the separation of California into two states. Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution says “no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State” or “formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress”. Street and Preston have both referred to the creation of New California as a “constitutional effort”.

Many supporters of the State of Jefferson movement say New California is a “bogus” movement and that it includes too many counties. Some supporters of the State of Jefferson even believe that New California State is a plot led by Democrats to sabotage efforts to create the State of Jefferson. Conspiracy theorist, meet conspiracy theorist!

The New California State website makes a series of ahistorical references to independence movements in California, beginning with that led by a small number of Californios in the northern portion of the state in 1836 when the region was part of Mexico. The New California State website also references the creations of the states of Nevada, West Virginia, Alaska, and Hawai’i. The historical context surrounding the creation of these states, however, is markedly different from the situation in contemporary California. Considering the fact that the U.S. is in the middle of a philosophical civil war, the comparison to West Virginia might make the most sense.

Like the push to form the State of Jefferson, New California has little to no chance of succeeding. Both are based more on promoting a sort of far-right Christian nationalist identity politics than actual secession.

Shasta Citizens for Stable Government group member Benjamin Nowain told A News Café Street’s position as vice president of New California State should make him ineligible for the Shasta County CEO position.

Benjamin Nowain.

“Elected and appointed members of office swear an oath to the California Constitution and it seems somewhat ridiculous the board would hire someone who could not ethically take that oath,” Nowain said.

A News Café also asked Nowain why he thinks organizations like New California State dabble so much in far-right conspiracy theories, rather than sticking to the issues that matter, like water storage, jobs, and the soaring price of utilities. Nowain said he believes that far-right groups and politicians like District 4 Shasta County Supervisor Patrick Jones need controversial subjects to gain national attention.

Nowain said Jones “appears to be getting ready to run for higher office, and is building a track record to wear those controversial decisions like a badge of honor”.

Redding resident and advocate for stable county governance, Susanne Baremore, says Street’s involvement in New California creates a troubling picture of leadership in Shasta County.

Susanne Baremore.

Like Nowain, Baremore also wonders how Street could be sworn in to uphold the state’s constitution when he supports secessionism.

“Street is a divisive pick for CEO at a time when this county desperately needs someone willing to unite the community for its common good,” Baremore said. “As stated in the job description, one of the objectives of the CEO is to ‘bring the community together through understanding and healing to create a more cohesive, harmonious group that is better equipped to work toward shared goals and aspirations’.”

Contrary to this, Baremore predicts there will be even greater community disharmony and strife if Street is hired.

Meanwhile, it remains unknown whether Shasta County’s board majority will offer Street the job as CEO, which would require they majority overlooks Street’s extensive pro-secessionist leadership roles in New California State, his controversial litigious-filled work history, and, most recently, a police investigation regarding allegations filed against him that involve a young female at the YMCA?

Or, will the board majority weigh all that damning evidence, withdraw its original offer to Street, and select another CEO candidate?

Depending upon the outcome of tomorrow’s special meeting, Shasta County should know one way or another: a CEO who acknowledges the geographical state of California as we know it, or a CEO who wants to divide the state, this county and its people, in every way possible?

If you appreciate Chico State Assistant Professor Shawn Schwaller’s investigative reporting and commentary, please consider a contribution to A News Cafe. Thank you.

Shawn Schwaller

Opinion writer and reporter Shawn Schwaller grew up in Red Bluff, California. He is an assistant professor in the History Department at California State University, Chico and holds a Ph.D. in history and an M.A. in American studies. Schwaller specializes in North State stories about law-enforcement corruption and far-right politics. He can be reached at schwaller.anewscafe@yahoo.com and welcomes your story tips.

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