BY JIM MORRILL
ORDER REPRINT OF THIS STORY
A California Democrat on Thursday did what no presidential candidate in memory has done: qualified by petition to be on North Carolina’s March 15 primary ballot.
Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente qualified when election officials verified 10,111 petition signatures Thursday, 111 more than needed.
His campaign has to deliver the petitions to the state board of elections by 5 p.m. Monday to actually get on the ballot. He says he will.
So confident was De La Fuente that he’d make the N.C. ballot that he rented a house near Charlotte Douglas International Airport last month. He plans to campaign here next week.
De La Fuente said North Carolina would become the 17th state in which he’ll appear on the ballot.
Thursday’s signature verification came the same day that Ohio officials announced that he qualified for the primary ballot in that state – while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who failed to get enough valid signatures, will not. That means Ohio Democrats will have a choice of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and De La Fuente.
De La Fuente, 61, is a San Diego-born businessman of Hispanic heritage. He’s worked in the automobile, finance and real estate industries. He’s a self-described conservative Democrat who fought for and won the right to erect a 22-story pole that flies a 3,000-square-foot American flag over San Diego. He calls it the tallest free-standing flag pole in America.
De La Fuente, who’s never held elective office, said he’s long dreamed of running for president. This year he said he was spurred by his dislike of the leading Democrats as well as by Republican Donald Trump’s criticisms of Mexicans and others.
“I was very disappointed with the candidates that we have,” he said. “Our country needs help. The people are crying for help. The people need hope. America is suffering.”
De La Fuente said he doesn’t want Trump or two other GOP candidates, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas or Marco Rubio of Florida, to “ruin this country.” But he said the main reason he’s running is to stop Clinton.
“I want America to know that I’m there for one reason and one reason only – to not give Hillary the opportunity to try to attempt to govern this country for the next eight years.”
Getting on North Carolina’s primary ballot, while difficult, is easier than qualifying as an independent presidential candidate. For that, 89,366 signatures are needed.
According to state elections officials, De La Fuente is one of 19 individuals or groups petitioning to get on the N.C. ballot.
That includes everything from the Green Party to the Christian Party to the Time for a Change Party to the Twelve Visions Party of North Carolina.
Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article52529040.html#storylink=cpy