California Secession Effort Ends, for Now, as Its Leader Moves to Russia

by | April 18, 2017

By Melody Gutierrez

The man behind a campaign to have California secede from the nation asked the state Monday to withdraw the ballot measure from signature-gathering after he decided to seek permanent residency in Russia.

Louis Marinelli of the group Yes California has faced mounting criticism from backers of other secession efforts in the state, saying his involvement in Russia, where he previously said he was living temporarily while working as a teacher, has been a distraction. Those CalExit supporters questioned Marinelli's motives and said they want nothing to do with a country accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Yes California co-founder Marcus Ruiz Evans said other supporters of secession efforts are planning to push for a ballot measure under a group not affiliated with Marinelli. Ruiz Evans said Monday that he left Yes California and joined the California Freedom Coalition, another campaign that wants California to become its own country through "peaceful secession."

While a surprising number of Californians support secession -- 1 out of 3 in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll in January -- constitutional law experts say it's virtually impossible for the Golden State to break away.

Marinelli and his group Yes California had been collecting petition signatures to qualify a measure on the 2018 ballot that would remove language from the state Constitution describing California as "an inseparable part of the United States of America." If that measure had passed, a future ballot measure would have to ask voters whether the state should secede. The proposed 2018 initiative needed more than 585,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. It's unclear how many signatures had been collected before the campaign was dropped.

A secretary of state spokesman says their office has been notified by Yes California of the intent to withdraw the measure from circulation and is awaiting a signed notice to officially withdraw it.

Marinelli said he will continue to advocate for California's secession.

"No other plan offers better solutions to the problems or alleviates the growing fears of tens of millions of people who live in California," Marinelli wrote in an email to Yes California supporters.

Marinelli wrote in the email that Yes California has seen significant growth since President Trump was elected in November and that the group now has nearly 100,000 people registered as supporters and 1,200 financial contributions. Marinelli blamed the media for "sensationalized, exaggerated, and dramatized information" about him and his group's efforts to have California break from the union. He said it was his own fight to have his Russian wife legally immigrate to the United States that forced him to move to Russia.

(c)2017 the San Francisco Chronicle