While former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has received the lion’s share of the mainstream media coverage provided to third-party candidates in this highly volatile and unpredictable presidential campaign — much of it making a complete fool of himself — several other independent and minor-party aspirants for the White House have struggled for even a small fraction of the attention undeservedly heaped on the seemingly somnolent and gaffe-prone Libertarian Party nominee.
One of those is Rocky De La Fuente, a doggedly determined and largely self-funded candidate seeking to open the political process and restore genuine democracy in the United States.
He’s probably the best kept secret in this year’s presidential sweepstakes.
With little publicity or fanfare, the 61-year-old De La Fuente has quietly scratched and clawed his way onto the ballot in no fewer than twenty states this autumn — and most likely would have been on the ballot in at least half the states in the country were it not for a few minor technicalities in states like Washington and New York, as well as antiquated and arguably unconstitutional “sore loser” laws in Alabama, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.
Reminiscent of the late Eugene McCarthy’s little-noticed independent bid for the White House in the year of America’s Bicentennial — “The Bloodless Revolution of 1976,” as McCarthy’s young lawyers John C. Armor and Philip L. Marcus described it — De La Fuente is running to open the political process in this country and to create greater awareness of how the political system has been deliberately rigged to protect the two-party stranglehold on American politics while severely limiting voter choice.
Like “Clean Gene” some forty years ago, De La Fuente hopes to knock down a myriad of barriers deliberately put in place to thwart candidates running outside the duopoly. In 1976, McCarthy’s legal team struck down unfair and unconstitutional ballot access laws in at least sixteen states. Like the former Minnesota senator, De La Fuente has already filed at least eleven ballot access lawsuits pertaining to this year’s general election, including legal challenges to the burdensome and discriminatory number of signatures required for an independent or minor-party candidate for president in California, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.
According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, the longtime publisher of Ballot Access News, De La Fuente’s lawsuit in the Lone Star State also addresses the state’s early filing deadline and its sore loser law as applied to candidates who ran in the Texas presidential primary.
“The deck is stacked against anyone who is not a member of the politically elite,” says the amiable first-generation Mexican-American candidate.
He’s speaking from firsthand experience. Earlier this year, the savvy San Diego businessman challenged Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in no fewer than forty Democratic primaries and caucuses and in doing so became the first candidate to ever qualify for the presidential primary ballot in Michigan and possibly North Carolina via the petition method, an arduous task that required obtaining a minimum of 12,000 valid signatures in the former state and more than 10,000 valid signatures in North Carolina, a state with some of the country’s strictest ballot access requirements. Remarkably, De La Fuente did the same thing in Massachusetts.
Though he met all three of those difficult hurdles — he submitted more than 20,000 petition signatures in Michigan, turned in 18,757 signatures in the Tar Heel State and obtained the necessary 2,500 valid signatures in Massachusetts — Clinton, Sanders and Maryland’s Martin O’Malley, the latter of whom dropped out of the Democratic contest faster than one could say “Rocky De La Fuente,” didn’t need a single signature in those three states because they were generally recognized as presidential candidates by the national news media and had been given their party’s official seal of approval.
Not surprisingly, De La Fuente was also shut out of the televised Democratic presidential debates, a fact he squarely blames on the Debbie Wasserman Schultz-led Democratic National Committee (DNC). “They want Hillary to be their next queen,” he quipped while campaigning in Raleigh, North Carolina.
De La Fuente, incidentally, was the first person to call for Wasserman-Schultz’s resignation as head of the DNC, long before Vermont’s Bernie Sanders called for her ouster.
As a result of that painstakingly burdensome and expensive experience, the unassuming and mild-mannered De La Fuente, a deep-pocketed political “outsider,” realized just how unfair the nation’s entire electoral system really is, how the entire process is intended to completely stymie a political newcomer like himself.
He learned the hard way, but he learned quickly, which is precisely why he decided to remain in the race as a third-party candidate through November.
Unlike Rocky, most candidates would have given up the ghost long before now.
An avid chess player who thrives on simultaneously outwitting his opponents on multiple chessboards, the soft-spoken De La Fuente also waged a somewhat imaginative bid for Florida’s Democratic U.S. Senate nomination earlier this summer, sandwiching that last-minute candidacy in his adopted state between his earlier bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and his current third-party quest for the White House.
Exhibiting a bull-sized taste for revenge, Rocky’s unanticipated Senate candidacy was clearly aimed at Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other ruthless Florida Democratic leaders for refusing to place his name on that state’s March 15th presidential primary ballot.
“I’m trying to restore democracy and bring fairness to our electoral process,” the irrepressible candidate asserted in a recent press release. “The hurdles the system has in place are overwhelming. People need to become aware of how unfair the system has become or they may continue to suffer the types of candidate choices they are faced with today.”
Like a majority of voters, he’s not remotely impressed with either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. He doesn’t care too much for the Libertarian candidate either.
De La Fuente acknowledges that he was initially intrigued by Trump’s candidacy, “until he started opening his mouth.” In fact, it was the real estate mogul’s inflammatory rhetoric against Mexicans and Muslims that propelled De La Fuente into the race a year ago this month. “If it wasn’t for him,” asserts De La Fuente, “I would not be in this race.”
It’s not surprising that the other real estate tycoon-turned-presidential candidate — the one most Americans have never heard of — is particularly appalled by Trump’s grandiose and mean-spirited proposals to deport millions of illegal immigrants and build a wall approximately 2,000 miles in length along the U.S. southern border. After all, this is a guy who once exchanged 787 acres of privately-owned land with the state of California to be used in construction of the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in the foothills of Otay Mesa in exchange for 310 acres next to a planned international border crossing where the prison was originally planned to be built. De La Fuente didn’t want a massive prison complex to be the first thing visitors and newcomers from Latin America to see when entering the United States.
Needless to say, the erratic Republican nominee doesn’t impress him in the slightest, politically or professionally. “Any success he has, in anything he’s done in any business — I have done it better,” De La Fuente matter-of-factly told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this past spring.
Hillary, he maintains, isn’t much better. “The lady thinks she’s queen,” the longshot candidate declared while campaigning in the Alaska caucus earlier this year. “This is a democracy. This is not a dynasty.” He’s also deeply troubled by the former Secretary of State’s growing e-mail scandal and has long believed Clinton may eventually be indicted, even if she’s sworn in as America’s 45 th President in January.
The Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, he says, simply isn’t up to the task. The two major parties, De La Fuente told this writer, “have offered extremely flawed candidates and opened the door for a third party to have a major impact,” but the Libertarians, the only alternative party with ballot access in all fifty states, “nominated a candidate who does not appear to be interested in seriously challenging the status quo.”
While the blustering GOP candidate promises to “make America great again” and his Democratic rival insists “America never stopped being great,” Rocky takes issue with both of his major-party rivals and says that he won’t rest until he makes the United States “ten times greater than what it is today.”
A minor-party version of Donald Trump, but in a very positive and endearing way, the wealthy real estate developer will appear on the ballot in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming and is also expected to have write-in status in more than fifteen other states, including heavily-Hispanic Arizona and California, as well as the District of Columbia. In most of those states De La Fuente’s name will appear on the ballot as an independent or as the nominee of his newly-created American Delta Party.
In the crucial battleground state of Florida, where he recently waged a somewhat unorthodox and colorful campaign for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination — a contest in which the socially liberal and fiscally pragmatic political centrist garnered more than 61,000 votes and outpolled better-known progressive firebrand Alan Grayson in populous Miami-Dade County by nearly a thousand votes — De La Fuente will be listed on the ballot as the candidate of Ross Perot’s Reform Party, a party that had been on death’s doorstep in recent years, but is now experiencing a mild resurgence largely due to Rocky’s candidacy.
Theoretically, those 35 states will give the determined political outsider, a candidate completely ignored by the presumptuous and all-powerful media gatekeepers — the same folks who don’t mind endlessly subjecting their audiences to a disarmingly pleasant, but dangerously contemptible austerity monger and intellectual lightweight like Gary “What is Aleppo?” Johnson — a fighting chance to compete for more than 270 electoral votes on November 8 th .
While seeking the Republican presidential nomination four years ago, Johnson — America’s Heinrich Bruning, the German chancellor whose punitive austerity measures led directly to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 — called for an immediate $1.4 trillion, 43 percent across-the-board cut in federal spending, a draconian proposal that would have had catastrophic consequences for our most vulnerable citizens while wreaking untold havoc on both the U.S. and global economy. The resulting deflationary spiral and devastating destruction of the country’s social safety net, resulting in unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted on poor and lower middle-income Americans, would have been immeasurable.
Yet of all of the candidates running outside the duopoly this year, the astonishingly clueless ex-governor of New Mexico, a rabidly right-wing fiscal extremist who supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the 12-nation trade deal viewed by many as “Wall Street’s Trojan Horse” — is the one and only third-party candidate the media inexplicably preferred to regularly parade in front of the electorate in a year of widespread discontent with both major-party candidates.
This is all the more astounding when one considers that the little-scrutinized Libertarian candidate preposterously believes that the “Invisible Hand” of the mythical free market will solve global warming, wants to repeal existing minimum wage laws, opposes the federal student loan program, and proposes substantially raising the eligibility age for Social Security and abolishing the federal departments of Commerce, Education, and Housing and Urban Development while eliminating corporate taxes and implementing the regressive “Fair Tax.”
Like the Green Party’s Jill Stein, who has qualified for the ballot in 44 states and in D.C. — an impressive feat and a record for her left-leaning party — and the Constitution Party’s Darrell Castle, a relatively obscure bankruptcy and personal injury attorney and ex-Marine from Memphis whose name will appear on the ballot in at least two-dozen states on Nov. 8, De La Fuente remains puzzled by the lack of coverage provided to the nation’s other minor-party candidates for the presidency in this increasingly tempestuous and topsy-turvy election cycle.
“I suppose you need to make obscene comments or blatantly flaunt the law to qualify for coverage in this year’s election,” he recently lamented. “It’s a sad commentary on the state of our political system.”
It’s even sadder that decent candidates like Stein, Castle and De La Fuente can’t get any attention in a field where one of the three leading candidates is part of a political dynasty, another is an outright demagogue, and the third is simply a dolt.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room for a decent candidate like Rocky, who has been quietly canvassing the country for more than a year.
It’s hard to imagine anybody more different than the self-aggrandizing Republican nominee or the smug and arrogant former First Lady.
An entrepreneur’s entrepreneur and somebody who’s not afraid to take risks, politically or professionally, the little-known De La Fuente has a remarkable life story, but — unlike the megalomaniacal Republican nominee — is far too modest to toot his own horn. He says he’s uncomfortable talking about himself and his considerable achievements, which is more than a little refreshing to hear, particularly in this era of narcissism run amok.
Despite spending more than $6.9 million as of August on his lonely quest for the presidency — mostly out of his own pocket — he’s sort of the odd man out in an increasingly bizarre election delightfully described by country music legend Dolly Parton, America’s most authentic lyricist, as “the best reality show on TV.”
But for those sick and tired of America’s celebrity culture and exhausted by the widespread worship of the rich and famous — arguably this country’s most disturbing disorder of all — the low-key and modest Rocky might be your man.
Graduating magna cum laude from the Jesuit-run Instituto Patria in Mexico City with an undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics and later studying business administration and accounting at Mexico’s Ana’huac University and the University of San Diego, De La Feunte went into the automotive industry in 1974 and eventually owned 28 new car dealerships. Selling cars was something of a family tradition. His grandfather sold Buicks in Mexico and his father and namesake, who amassed a fortune in auto dealerships and land development in Mexico before expanding to San Diego, owned one of the first Volkswagen dealerships in San Diego County. Rocky himself still owns a Cadillac dealership in El Cajon.
While still in his twenties, young Rocky was named chairman of the National Dealers Council for what was then the third largest automobile manufacturer in the world. He later parlayed his enormous success in the automobile industry into a real estate empire, acquiring and developing numerous properties throughout the United States. In addition to branching out into several other industries, the then-aspiring multimillionaire — a young man “who likes to portray himself as a fast-paced street fighter ready to outdistance all comers,” as the San Diego Union-Tribune once described him — also dabbled in banking, establishing no fewer than three banks, including a national bank and two banks chartered by the state of California.
During Mexico’s financial crisis of 1982 –a crisis precipitated by the inability of that country’s public and private sectors to meet their foreign-debt obligations, eventually resulting in a staggering inflation rate of 159 percent — De La Fuente opened eleven currency exchanges to help facilitate trade between that debt-ridden nation and the United States. He was only 27 at the time.
Among other things, the philanthropist and selfless humanitarian — words this year’s most interesting underdog would never use to describe himself due to his incredible sense of modesty — also developed two living-assistance facilities for low-income residents of the ethnically-diverse, working-class community of San Pedro in Los Angeles and in Lemon Grove, California, about nine miles from the city of San Diego. De La Fuente was recently given an Honorary Doctorate from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for his tireless, behind-the-scenes work as an international business ambassador.
Like father, like son, politics has always been in De La Fuente’s blood. In 1992, he became the first Hispanic American to serve as an at-large delegate from California when he attended the Democratic national convention at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Then, as now, De La Fuente’s mantra was “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Bill Clinton’s comments on the economy during his widely-watched acceptance speech, he told a reporter covering the convention, anchored his speech and vastly improved his chances of unseating George H. W. Bush. “The person that gives people the most hope for jobs will get elected,” he accurately predicted.
Rocky’s late father, a well-liked and generous man who reportedly enjoyed life to the fullest, routinely opened his 7,000-square-foot mansion in La Jolla Farms, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, to politicians of both parties and frequently held elaborate fundraisers for them, as well as for countless charities.
The elder De La Fuente, who was once described as “a visionary and a pioneer,” strongly believed in the two-party system, but given the deeply polarized and deplorable state of American politics today, not to mention the acrimonious, “take-no-prisoners” campaigns waged by both major-party candidates this year, Roque De La Fuente, Sr., would almost certainly be bursting with pride at his son’s intrepid challenge to the increasingly despised duopoly.
Married and the proud father of five children, a couple of whom may sooner or later follow in their father’s political footsteps, the younger De La Fuente isn’t one to give up without a fight. Like a wildflower refusing to simply wither in place, his seemingly quixotic third-party candidacy — coming rapidly on the heels of disappointing and exceedingly difficult back-to-back setbacks in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and then for a seat in the U.S. Senate — is a testament to Rocky’s indefatigable and indomitable spirit, but they’re qualities he’s always possessed.
When the city of San Diego, for instance, refused De La Fuente’s request to fly a large American flag over his Cadillac dealership, the tenacious businessman took the city to court and — following a protracted nine-year legal battle — won the right to display a 3,000 square-foot flag from what he claims is the tallest free standing flag pole in the United States. It was one of the happiest days of his life.
De La Fuente’s legendary tenacity was observed again late last year when he won a multimillion dollar settlement with the city of San Diego over a bitter land dispute involving the real estate developer’s plans to build an international industrial park on a 312-acre tract of land in Otay Mesa, then a dusty region just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, in the mid-eighties.
Rocky, whose first glimpse of the undeveloped region was from a helicopter several years earlier, knew instinctively that the area was destined to become a cross-border bonanza and was astonished that the area had never been developed before. “This is the future of San Diego,” he said to himself during that 1979 helicopter ride. He and his family eventually acquired 4,000 acres. Incredibly, the 312-acre land dispute — the longest-running litigation in the city’s history –outlasted six mayors and three different city attorneys while taking a breathtaking 29 years to finally be resolved.
Rocky never gives up, particularly when he knows he’s right. He believes in himself and is confident — one might even say supremely confident — that he can pull the country out of its long economic decline, a thirty or forty-year descent that has wiped out much of the middle class while pushing millions of working-class Americans to the brink of poverty.
This country could surely use somebody with those qualities.
Buoyed by the more than 720,000 unique visitors to his campaign website over the past two months, the scrappy San Diegan plans to campaign ’til the bitter end.
Among other things, he’ll be one of at least three candidates participating in a third-party presidential debate hosted by Christina Tobin’s Free and Equal Elections Foundation at Colorado University in Boulder on October 25 th . Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Constitution Party’s Darrell Castle will also participate, but the Green Party’s Jill Stein and independent Evan McMullin, the former CIA officer and “Never Trump” candidate, haven’t yet responded to the debate invitation. (Wisely fearing that he would be badly outshined if he dares to mix it up with any of his minor-party rivals, the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson isn’t expected to take part in the debate.)
De La Fuente, who first started dreaming about running for the White House while in his early twenties, has said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he intends to model his administration after JFK’s short-lived presidency, one of the most prosperous periods in American history.
He also vows, if elected, not to accept his $400,000 annual presidential salary until he achieves his four primary goals: reducing homelessness by half, constructing 100 city parks, creating at least one million new jobs, and devising “a logical and smart immigration policy.” Achieving the first three objectives, he said, grinningly, will be a snap.
“President Kennedy offered balanced leadership,” De La Fuente told award-winning freelance writer and longtime political consultant Peter B. Gemma in an interview published last month.
[Kennedy] did not try to enhance his image by denigrating the image of others. He was far more diplomatic than the typical polarizing politicians we see today. I think leadership involves having the temperament to respect others unless they do something so profoundly inappropriate to merit criticism — otherwise, if you constantly attack others because their political ideology may differ from yours, you will not be able to build the consensus you need to move forward. President Kennedy was a master at building consensus.
JFK also championed economic and fiscal policies that greatly benefited working-class and middle-income Americans, De La Fuente astutely observed in that same interview.
He’s right. Kennedy, who inherited a mild recession when he took office in January 1961, was committed to a higher level of sustained economic growth and — much to Wall Street’s displeasure — vigorously pursued policies designed to channel the flow of money and credit away from short-term speculative and non-productive investments. In his book New Dimensions of Political Economy (Harvard University Press, 1966), the late economist Walter Heller, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors during the Kennedy administration, noted that real income and wages for all income groups increased by 30 percent, real GNP grew by approximately 33 percent, and after-tax corporate profits doubled between 1961 and 1966 — the years Kennedy’s fiscal and economic policies were in place.
Imagine that kind of vibrant economy today — and a forward-looking president who was determined to make it happen.
We should be so lucky.
It’s too bad most voters aren’t aware of De La Fuente’s candidacy. He’d probably be a damn good president, far better than the terrible and tiresome trio dominating the news coverage in the closing days of this inexcusably sad and sorry election.
Posted on October 18, 2016 by Darcy Richardson