Two North Carolina residents are seeking their party’s nomination for president, but they won’t be on the primary ballot in their home state.
Democrat Lloyd Kelso, an attorney from Gastonia, and Republican Tim Cook, a perennial candidate from Guilford County, are both among 58 presidential candidates who will appear on the ballot in New Hampshire’s Feb. 9 primary.
Both candidates face steep odds and haven’t attracted much attention given their lack of experience in elected office. Both have criticized ballot access requirements in North Carolina that will keep their names off the list.
Only three Democrats will appear on the state’s primary ballot: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. Kelso says he decided not to file paperwork here.
“Democratic Party took my money for filing fee, $2,500 in S.C., and didn't let me on the ballot, so I was not about to give them $4,000 in N.C. and take a chance that they would again keep my money and not let me on the ballot,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “We can still win the nomination even if we are not on the ballot in every state.”
Cook blamed the state Republican Party for failing to include him among the 14 other candidates ranging from Donald Trump to Jim Gilmore. “NCGOP said all welcome on ballot in news, I’m on NH, LA, AZ ballot already & denied NC,” he tweeted.
Cook noted that he’s been on North Carolina ballots in the past, running in GOP primaries for lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate. He got 12 percent of the vote in a 2012 Republican primary for N.C. House, losing to Jon Hardister.
North Carolina’s presidential primary field is set by the political parties’ state leadership, which submits a list of candidates to the State Board of Elections. Both parties said their list included all candidates that were “generally advocated and recognized in the news media throughout the United States or in North Carolina.”
New Hampshire, by contrast, allows anyone who submits paperwork to the secretary of state’s office to appear on the ballot and pays $1,000.
With little incentive to campaign at home, Kelso has instead focused his campaign on New Hampshire, which holds the first primary. He’s appeared on radio stations around the state and distributed bumper stickers and yard signs.
Kelso will face off against 27 other Democrats there, including other long-shot candidates like Vermin Supreme, a performance artist who wears a rubber boot on his head.
Kelso recently told the Gaston Gazette that he’s hoping to finish third in New Hampshire behind Clinton and Sanders, and he’s spent $70,000 of his own money on the campaign. As of Monday, Kelso’s Facebook page had more than 51,000 “likes.”
Cook’s campaign presence is harder to find than Kelso’s, in part because he shares a name with the CEO of Apple. While Cook hasn’t yet reported any fundraising to the Federal Election Commission, he’s also optimistic about his chances.
In a Craigslist ad seeking delegates to represent him at the GOP convention, Cook notes that “in a Twitter poll conducted by Tim Cook, it shows that Tim can defeat Hillary.”
Long-shot candidates blast Clinton
While they’re competing in opposing political parties, both of the North Carolina residents on the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot frequently criticize Hillary Clinton.
Republican Tim Cook recently promised on Twitter that if he’s elected, he’ll send Clinton to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Democrat Lloyd Kelso has called Clinton’s record as secretary of state “deplorable,” pointing to her handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. He argues that the Democratic Party has “rigged” the primary process in favor of Clinton.