San Diego businessman Roque “Rocky” de la Fuente will be on the North Carolina Democratic presidential primary ballot, becoming the first candidate in years to garner 10,000 signatures.
The State Board of Elections voted Tuesday to set the presidential primary ballot lineups for the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties. De la Fuente was the only name that wasn’t on lists submitted by the three recognized state parties.
Getting 10,000 verified signatures isn’t easy: Only signatures from voters registered as Democrats count. Out of the 18,757 signatures that de la Fuente’s campaign submitted, 10,111 were verified by election officials.
“We are not aware of this happening before in recent memory,” said Jackie Hyland, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections.
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De la Fuente said he relied on a mix of volunteers and paid campaign staffers to collect signatures outside shopping centers and other places where people gather.
For candidates who aren’t on the state party list, North Carolina has some of the toughest ballot access requirements in the country. De la Fuente is on the ballot in dozens of other states, qualifying in Massachusetts and Minnesota this week. The states include Ohio, where former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley fell short of the 1,200 signatures required.
“North Carolina is very, very strict,” de la Fuente said Tuesday. “They held me to the highest test, and I barely made it.”
The California real estate developer and car dealer says he’s already rented a house near Charlotte and plans to campaign in North Carolina before the March 15 primary.
“I’m here to win,” he said. “I will not take second place. ... Once (voters) get to know me, it will be a simple decision: Hillary or Rocky.”
De la Fuente describes himself as a conservative Democrat who wants to reform the immigration system and create jobs. “I’m not a politician, I’m a hard-working person,” he said.
He blames Democratic Party leaders for keeping him out of debates. “They want Hillary to be their next queen, and I don’t agree with their decision,” he said.
The board declined to add another long-shot presidential candidate to the ballot in North Carolina. Republican candidate Tim Cook of Guilford County isn’t on the list of nationally known candidates submitted by the N.C. Republican Party, and he didn’t attempt the petition process.
In letters to the board, Cook argued that he “must be included as he is recognized nationwide in the news as a candidate in other states,” citing brief mentions in several news articles.
While the board has the power to add Cook, board attorney Josh Lawson noted that “it’s not something that this board regularly does.”
Who’s on the primary ballot?
The State Board of Elections voted Tuesday to approve lists of presidential candidates for each of the three recognized political parties.
Democrats: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Rocky de la Fuente
Republican: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump
Libertarian: Marc Feldman, John Hale, Cecil Ince, Gary Johnson, Steven Kerbel, Darryl Perry, Austin Petersen, Derrick Reid, Jack Robinson, Rhett Smith and Barbara Waymire