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Arizona Separatists Begin Petition Drive

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Arizona Separatists Begin Petition Drive

Arizona Separatists Begin Petition Drive

Secessionists are calling it Baja Arizona. Organizers of the movement in Southern Arizona want to break away from the capitol, Phoenix.

They gathered their first petition signatures Thursday night. And it's no joke. Some people who showed up to support the effort believe it could actually happen.

About 75 people met inside a Tucson bar to sign a petition that would secede Pima County from the rest of the state.

They have a long way to go.

Organizers need 48,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot. After the first hour, a volunteer estimated they had 80 names.

Tucson resident Irma Turkoc was one of them.

"It's one delightful idea, a lot of fun and it's also deadly serious," Turkoc said. "I think it's very important."

The idea started last winter when the Arizona legislature tried to pass a bill nullifying federal laws. That bill failed. And Republicans expect this effort from the Democrats will, too.

"In fact, we think it just makes us look a little bit more foolish here in Arizona," said Sam Stone, spokesman for the Pima County Republican Party.

Which is what the Democrats say about the Republican legislature. Which could explain why the The Daily Show, known for spoofing politics, came last week to do a segment about it all.

The movement's co-founder is Paul Eckerstrom. He says people in other counties north and south of the state capitol want to join in.

"I don't know how we would do that if they're not quite contiguous, but it would be donut Arizona," Eckerstrom said.

He and his supporters have 14 months to gather the signatures.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.