SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Supporters of a long-shot bid to make California an independent nation on Monday ended their effort to put it to a statewide vote next year, despite the extra interest it drew after last year’s election of Republican Donald Trump as president.
The secretary of state’s office confirmed that Marcus Ruiz Evans, vice president of the Yes California Independence Campaign, notified officials he intends to withdraw the California Nationhood ballot measure.
The group’s president, Louis Marinelli, said in a lengthy message to supporters that he is seeking permanent residence in Russia. He said supporters may try again to separate California from the rest of the United States sometime in the future.
The ballot measure would have allowed voters to repeal a part of the state Constitution saying that California is an inseparable part of the United States, but left the question of whether California should become a separate country to a future ballot. It would have required that the governor ask to join the United Nations if 55 percent of voters supported that future declaration of independence.
Congress and 38 states would have had to agree to change the U.S. Constitution to permit California to actually secede.
The group had received a social media boost with Trump’s election. Marinelli said in November that the group’s Facebook contacts grew from about 11,000 to about 15,000 as election results came in, while its email account received about 3,000 messages.
He and Evans said California’s overwhelming support of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and measures legalizing recreational marijuana and reducing crime penalties showed how far California voters were removed from the rest of the nation.
They also equated the movement to last year’s decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, dubbed Brexit. California, with its 39 million residents, is often compared to a nation, and data from the World Bank shows its economy was equivalent to the sixth-largest in the world in 2015.
However, the group needed more than 585,000 signatures by July to put a measure on the ballot. Marinelli said it had fewer than 97,500 registered supporters. About 8,500 signed up as volunteers but only about 1,200 had contributed money.
Prior to Trump’s election, the group had fewer than 100 volunteers, Marinelli said.
Both Marinelli and Evans claimed credit, in separate statements, for starting the Calexit campaign.
“With the right leadership and sufficient resources, particularly of a financial nature, Calexit can and will really take off,” Marinelli said.
He acknowledged that his ties to Russia had become a distraction and said he intends to live there, if he is permitted, because of his “frustration, disappointment and disillusionment with the United States.”
He cited his struggle with U.S. officials since 2012 over the immigration status of his wife, a foreign national who he said faced the threat of deportation. He praised California officials for their attempts to shield immigrant residents from deportation and said his wife now has her green card.
When California one day becomes independent, Marinelli wrote, “I shall look forward with great satisfaction to return to California and to live once again under our bear flag.”