An image from a Los Angeles May Day march, which was decidedly anti-Trump.
An image from a Los Angeles May Day march, which was decidedly anti-Trump.
File photo by Brian Feinzimer/L.A. Weekly

Voters Might Have Two Choices for a Trump-Free California

A second "Calexit" initiative is aiming for the 2018 ballot.

The group Yes California has recharged its secession effort and is planning to file proposed circulation language soon, organization president Marcus Ruiz Evans says. The proposal seeks to ask voters via the November 2018 ballot to say yes or no to a referendum in 2019 that would, if approved, trigger legislative and gubernatorial steps toward independence from the United States, according to the political action committee.

"Our initiative says that we're having a vote up and down and if we vote to leave we're going to move immediately to change things," Evans says.

If successful, the initiative would share ballot space with a similar effort by the California Freedom Coalition, which asks voters to approve a road to greater autonomy from the United States.

The suggested deadline to file "circulation" language to the California attorney general is Aug. 22. The Yes California filing seeks approval of the state's top cop for a description of the initiative that would be presented to registered voters for their signatures. Organizers said in a statement that they need 365,880 valid voter signatures to make the ballot.

That's an uphill battle for a political action committee that's asking supporters to help with the $2,000 filing fee. Professional signature-gathering firms usually charge about $2 million to $3 million for a successful statewide effort. Only one grassroots initiative has made the statewide ballot, sans professional help, since 1988.

Yes California had a rough spring after it was revealed that co-founder Louis Marinelli was a frequent flier to Russia. The travel was funded by a Kremlin-linked nationalist group. The group rented office space known as the Calexit embassy. Following those revelations, Evans and Marinelli withdrew Yes California's last independence proposal from consideration. Marinelli said he hoped to live in Russia full-time. Evans jumped ship to join the California Freedom Coalition. That didn't last, however, and Evans returned to the helm of Yes California.

This week the organization announced that the Moscow office has been shuttered. "Among the first actions Evans took in his new role was to close the doors of the organization’s embattled representational embassy and culture center opened last year in Moscow, Russia," according to a statement.

Evans says, "Louis is still around but he is a board member and is not allowed to be an officer or claim that he is a leader of Yes California."

The turmoil was compounded by a lack of financial support. Although Evans says Yes California is wildly popular on social media, the nonprofit is still waiting for an angel donor.

"Everyone thinks it's a joke because we filed and pulled it," he says. "We're just going to keep filing. Somebody with money is going to say, 'I'd like to get my name in the paper — here's $2 million.' That's the strategy and it's a workable idea."

Meanwhile, California Freedom Coalition board member Steve Gonzalez says the group is gathering signatures in the Bay Area. We asked what he thought about a possibly competing initiative on the November ballot.

"They keep going back and forth in a very inconsistent manner," he says of Yes California. "I'm not really sure what to make of it. I think that their actions really speak for themselves."

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