Roque De La Fuente may have just hit peak publicity in his unique political career.
He has made national news, been interviewed by Newsweek (among others) and has become fodder for TMZ, the celebrity- and gossip-heavy tabloid news website.
Interesting as San Diego’s repeatedly long-shot presidential candidate may be, he isn’t the one driving the coverage. It’s his California running mate: Kanye West.
De La Fuente, an automobile dealership owner and real estate developer, has run for more than a dozen offices, including president, U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and even mayor of New York — all since 2016.
The American Independent Party in California has nominated De La Fuente as its presidential candidate and named the famous rapper and fashion mogul as his vice presidential running mate. Neither De La Fuente nor West, apparently, was consulted by the AIP over the VP selection. The AIP, like other parties in California, has the right to nominate whomever it wants.
So, the De La Fuente-West ticket is on the California ballot, along with Trump-Pence, Biden-Harris and other minor-party nominees.
It’s all a bit confusing given that West is waging his own presidential bid in several other states, where he has qualified for the ballot. West, who had been supportive of President Donald Trump, reportedly was aided early on by Republican operatives. That was widely seen as a move to try to siphon votes from Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden and help tilt some swing states toward Trump.
If that’s the gambit, it hasn’t worked too well. Of the dozen states where West is on the ballot, only three were initially considered competitive between Trump and Biden: Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota. Polls show Iowa is the only one that now appears close, with Biden holding double-digit leads in the other two.
West’s running mate outside of California is Michelle Tidball, who Ballotpedia described as a preacher, life coach and former mental health therapist.
In any case, there’s no certainty that West would draw more votes from Biden than Trump.
West’s presence on the California ballot is unlikely to factor in to who wins in the heavily Democratic state. Hillary Clinton finished nearly 30 percentage points ahead of Trump in California in 2016, and current polling suggests Biden’s margin will be in that neighborhood.
AIP executive committee Chairman Markham Robinson recently acknowledged the attention-getting appeal of putting West on the ballot in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune. West has been outspoken in his opposition to abortion, a key tenet of the AIP. Robinson has said that West’s biblical references in support of his views also made an impression on the party.
“His platform is . . . really pretty good,” Robinson told Newsweek. “We loved the fact that he used scriptural references to justify his points.”
De La Fuente actually ended up a distant second in the AIP primary election in March, 10 points behind Phil Collins, who shares a name with the well-known rock musician.
De La Fuente said concern that Collins may have benefited from the name in the primary may have factored into the party’s presidential nomination decision. De La Fuente was the unanimous choice — with one abstention — at the party’s convention in August, a reportedly electronic gathering that he said included nearly 30 participants.
Before then, De La Fuente had been making payments to AIP Vice Chairman Mark Seidenberg, according to the Independent Political Report.
The website linked to an FEC document that showed De La Fuente’s campaign (Rocky 101 LLC) paid Seidenberg $10,000 in five $2,000 installments between December and April, mostly for research services. De La Fuente said his hiring of Seidenberg was separate from the party’s nomination and added that Seidenberg was only one vote.
De La Fuente said he was not informed of West’s nomination until it happened and that he hasn’t had any contact with the entertainer. As to how they will fare, De La Fuente noted West’s popularity among younger people and the diversity of the AIP California ticket.
“We’ll be a third-party ticket with a brown — I’m brown, Mexican-American — and an African American,” he said Monday. “Let’s see if we can get an interesting number (of votes).”
West, who is running elsewhere under the “Birthday Party,” reportedly wasn’t happy about being named a vice presidential nominee. In his first television ad of the campaign, West urged voters to write in his name on ballots in states where he is not listed as a presidential candidate. He is not a certified write-in candidate in California, so a write-in vote for him here will not count.
De La Fuente has said he is on the ballot in 16 states and qualified as a write-in candidate in 12 others. Depending on the state, he is running as the nominee for the Reform Party, Alliance Party, Natural Law Party or American Delta Party.
His running mate in those other states, Darcy Richardson, has long been a critic of American politics being dominated by two parties. He wasn’t too pleased with the situation in California, either.
“I’ve spent my entire adult life battling the duopoly and certainly DO NOT want my name associated with a candidacy that peripherally includes a Trump/GOP plant like the unhinged rapper,” he said, according to the Independent Political Report.
De La Fuente has run as a Republican and Democrat for various offices in the past. In 2016, he was a Democratic presidential candidate.
He generally finished in primaries with between 0.0 percent (Wisconsin) and 1.09 percent (Delaware) of the vote. His best result, percentage-wise, was in the American Samoa caucus (5.91 percent, 14 votes).
This week, he was critical of the two major-party offerings of Trump, Biden and Clinton over two presidential elections. “Those are horrible choices,” he said.
“My objective is to have a third, bonafied party so people can have a choice . . . and we can get rid of gridlock,” said De La Fuente, who has waged legal battles in some states challenging what he considered restrictive ballot-access rules.
At age 66, De La Fuente would not say whether there will be another campaign after running with the man TMZ calls “Ye.”
He wants to see how this one turns out.