Red Bluff, Calif. - Voters in one far Northern California county defeated a measure to call for the creation of a 51st state named Jefferson while those in a neighboring county responded more favorably to the test of whether a secessionist movement has sails in a region accustomed to feeling overlooked by the rest of California.
Del Norte County voters rejected the secessionist measure by 59 percent Tuesday, while Tehama County voters were supporting the proposal by 56 percent with ballots still being tallied.
A similar but unrelated question on the ballot in Siskiyou County, to rename it the Republic of Jefferson, failed with only 44 percent of voters in favor.
"I'm going to definitely talk to the people of Jefferson and tell them to stick around," Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters outside the historic governor's mansion in Sacramento Tuesday night.
The advisory measures in Del Norte and Tehama counties, with a combined population of 91,000, asked their boards of supervisors to join an effort to form a breakaway state of Jefferson. Residents of the state's rural, conservative northern regions often say they feel ignored by California's leaders and have discussed secession for more than a century.
Elected officials in Glenn, Modoc, Siskiyou and Yuba counties already have voted to join in forming a new state. Supervisors in Butte County will vote next week, while other neighboring counties waited on Tuesday's results before deciding.
Mark Baird, a chief proponent of Jefferson state who lives in Siskiyou County, said he was undeterred by the defeat.
"There are people who are going to want this and there are people who won't, but we aren't ever going to quit until we get representation in rural Northern California," he said.
The steps to become the country's 51st state are steep, first requiring approval from the state Legislature, then from Congress.
The Northern California counties that could opt in - as many as 16, according to supporters - make up more than a quarter of the state's land mass but only a small slice of its population. The seven counties that have voted or will this month have a combined geographic area twice the size of New Hampshire, with about 467,000 residents.
The terrain spans some of California's most majestic scenery, from rugged coastlines to agriculture-dominated valleys, Mount Shasta and Redwood National Park. Some of its residents are also are among the state's poorest.
It's unclear how the new state would pay for federally mandated education, social welfare, health care and other programs and services residents rely on.