California secessionists withdraw 'Calexit' referendum petition after leader seeks Russian citizenship

Calexit campaign ends with Russian defection
(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Monday, the organizers of the California succession ballot initiative formally withdrew their petition, less than three weeks after getting approval to start gathering the 585,407 valid signatures needed to qualify for the November 2018 ballot. Marcus Ruiz Evans, the ballot initiative's official proponent, made the request to the California secretary of state, explaining to the Los Angeles Times that "the biggest obstacle to Calexit is having a professional grassroots administration," but petition organizer Louis Marinelli had already pulled the plug on the current effort in a statement emailed from Russia, where he lives with his Russian wife.

Marinelli, who gained attention in December for opening an "embassy" in Moscow for the Independent Republic of California, said Monday he now intends to make Russia his home, "if the people of Russia would be so kind as to welcome me here on a permanent basis," given his "frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment with the United States." It's "only proper, given my intention to seek permanent residence in Russia and not return to California in the foreseeable future, to withdraw that petition from circulation," he wrote, so others could start a new petition "free from ties to me."

Martinelli said his big beef with Washington was immigration, specifically the trouble he had getting a green card for his wife, but now he no longer wants to "live under the American flag." He held out the possibility that he might "eventually return to occupied California and struggle for her independence from the United States so we could build the kind of country that reflects our progressive values," but said that in Russia he'd found "a future detached from the partisan divisions and animosity that has thus far engulfed my entire adult life." Martinelli campaigned for Bernie Sanders in 2016 but said he eventually voted for President Trump.

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The Calexit's failure to launch puts it in good company, the Los Angeles Times reports, adding to the more than 200 earlier attempts to declare independence for California or split it into multiple states. It's not clear that seccession would be constitutional.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.