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, reports the AP. The Yes California Independence Campaign faltered after its president, Louis Marinelli, revealed ties to Russia. Marinelli's wife is a Russian national who has struggled with the US immigration process, notes the San Diego Union-Tribune. In a lengthy message to supporters Monday, Marinelli said he is in Russia and seeking permanent residence 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. "It prevented Yes California from getting any serious money, I can tell you that," Gonzales said. The coalition would need to collect more than 585,000 signatures to qualify a ballot measure declaring California's independence for the November 2018 ballot. Congress and 38 states would have had to agree to change the Constitution to permit California to actually secede.