LANSING, MI — Rocky De La Fuente, a long-shot Democrat running for president, is trying to make Michigan’s primary ballot the old fashioned way.
The San Diego businessman petitioned voters and submitted an estimated 20,166 signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State last week.
Top-tier candidates generally have an easy time making Michigan primary ballots. The SOS creates an initial list of names and allows state party chairs to request additions.
But Michigan law also allows lesser-known candidates to make the primary ballot by collecting a certain number of signatures, based on the number of votes cast in the last presidential election.
De La Fuente, whose petitions must still be reviewed and certified by state election officials, could be the first modern-era candidate to pull it off.
“Michigan’s system of creating the presidential primary list dates to 1972,” SOS spokesman Fred Woodhams said in an email. “Since then, no candidate has submitted petitions to be included on the presidential primary.”
With Michigan’s Democratic and Republican primaries set for March 8, the SOS is hoping to finalize candidate lists by early January, according to Woodhams.
Republican candidate Donald Trump, in a November 23 letter to Michigan Elections Director Chris Thomas, requested that his middle initial be added to the ballot. Democratic hopeful Martin O’Malley made a similar request on November 18.
The candidates, who share a middle initial, will appear on their party’s respective primary ballots as “Donald J. Trump” and “Martin J. O’Malley,” Woodhams confirmed.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who withdrew from the presidential race in November, will not appear on the GOP ballot after asking that his name be removed.
De La Fuente doesn’t have to do anything else to make the Democratic ballot, but the process is not yet complete. This cycle, a candidate has to collect 12,823 valid signatures to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot.
Bureau of Elections staff will vet the estimated 20,166 signatures submitted by De La Fuente, and the Board of State Canvassers will make a final determination on ballot access.
De La Fuente, a Hispanic American, owns multiple car dealerships in California, according to his website. He has vowed to work without presidential pay until the country cuts homelessness in half, creates 1 million new jobs, opens 100 new parks and adopts a “logical and smart” immigration policy.
The De La Fuente campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.
Democrats currently set to appear on Michigan’s primary ballot: Hillary Clinton, Martin J. O’Malley, Bernie Sanders.
Republicans currently set to appear on Michigan’s primary ballot: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, John R. Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald J. Trump.
Jonathan Oosting is a Capitol reporter for MLive Media Group. Email him, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.