The leaders of the “Calexit” movement, or Yes California, are going their separate ways. Signature-gathering slowed and donors fled amid negative publicity exploiting one organizer’s ties to Russia. Now Californians will have to wait to take up secession.
It was never going to happen anyway, critics said. And while the Yes California campaign may have surprised many last year when it received state authorization to begin collecting signatures for ballot access, it all came to an anticlimactic end on Monday.
“For me, today, my ballot initiative petition drive came to an end,” Yes California leader Louis J. Marinelli wrote to supporters in an email Monday, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The campaign website has yet to be updated.
Yes California was in the middle of signature gathering, aiming to bring the issue of secession to voters on the November 2018 ballot.
If voters agreed to amend the state’s constitution, removing text deeming the republic “inseparable” from the US and declaring the US Constitution to be the “law of the land,” then a follow-up vote to form their own country would take place in March 2019.
That schedule has now been thrown off at least a year, as the former vice president of Yes California, Marcus Ruiz Evans, told the Bee that a similar group he has since joined, the California Freedom Coalition, plans to file new paperwork for ballot access by May 1.
Ruiz Evans split from Marinelli last week, and Marinelli announced in his email that he would be seeking permanent residence in Russia. Marinelli, whose wife is Russian, lived there during the Yes California campaign, moving to the Urals city of Yekaterinburg to teach English, but this connection to Russia was poisonous to the Calexit effort. That was especially the case following the election of President Donald Trump, who lost the Golden State by over 4 million votes, and who continues to be the object of protests calling for tax records amid accusations that Russia engineered his victory.
Ruiz Evans said fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin was somehow behind Calexit drove away donors and supporters.
“People got scared,” he told the Bee. “They got spooked by what they saw on the news and pulled out.”
Marinelli will stay on as president of Yes California. Meanwhile, other groups in California are pursuing similar goals, albeit through conflicting strategies. There is the liberal-leaning California National Party, which seeks gradual change over many years, and there is also a decades-old push not for secession but instead for California to split up into more states united under the US Constitution.
None of these efforts are taken all that seriously by the establishment in California or elsewhere, but a state with a population of 38 million to only 120 legislators and unfunded public pension programs has some problems that may be difficult to solve conventionally.