Supporters of one long-shot bid to make California an independent nation ended their effort on Monday, while another group said it will launch a new campaign for a statewide vote next year.
The drive to make the nation’s most populous state its own country, with what would be the world’s sixth-largest economy, has drawn extra interest after last year’s election of Republican Donald Trump as president.
But the Yes California Independence Campaign faltered after its president, Louis Marinelli, revealed ties to Russia. Marinelli said in a lengthy message to supporters Monday that he is seeking permanent residence in Russia because of his “frustration, disappointment and disillusionment with the United States.”
The secretary of state’s office confirmed that Marcus Ruiz Evans, the group’s vice president, withdrew the California Nationhood ballot measure.
Evans said he was leaving the Yes California group and joining the California Freedom Coalition, which he described as a grassroots organizing effort that evolved since last year’s election.
The coalition plans to file its own ballot measure in coming weeks, without the baggage of Marinelli’s Russian ties, said Steve Gonzales, the new group’s secretary-treasurer and board member.