Californian runs for Delaware’s U.S. Senate seat — and Florida’s, Hawaii’s and Vermont’s, too

Roque De La Fuente

DOVER — Roque De La Fuente wants to be your U.S. senator, Delaware.

The fact he doesn’t live in the First State?

A minor detail.

It only gets weirder: Mr. De La Fuente also wants to represent Florida — or Hawaii or Washington or Minnesota or Vermont, and despite running for president as a Democrat in 2016, he’s listed as a candidate in the First State’s Sept. 6 Republican primary.

Delaware’s election commissioner already knows what’s crossed your mind.

“I think it’s strange, but I don’t see anything that says he can’t run,” Elaine Manlove said.

The U.S. Constitution requires all senators to be at least 30 years of age, a U.S. citizen for a minimum of nine years and an “inhabitant” of the state “when elected.” While Ms. Manlove has not requested a formal ruling from Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, she’s consulted with a deputy attorney general and is unaware of anything that would disqualify Mr. De La Fuente.

There’s nothing legislators can do at the moment either because the General Assembly is out of session. Even if that were not the case, the issue is still moot because changing the state constitution requires two consecutive General Assemblies to pass identical legislation.

Ms. Manlove plans to bring the subject up when lawmakers convene in January, but for now, there’s no reason why a resident of California can’t run for a seat representing Delaware (setting aside the obvious, such as whether Delawareans may prefer to vote for someone living a bit closer to them).

Running for office varies from state to state. In Hawaii, for instance, a candidate for Congress must fill out a form, collect 25 signatures and pay $75. While the only paperwork Delaware requires is an application, simply filing can set you back quite a bit: This year’s fee, set by the two main parties, is $10,440 — 10 percent of what a senator’s salary amounts to after one six-year term.

Mr. De La Fuente, 63, learned he could seek posts in multiple states while running for president in 2016. He actually appeared on the ballot here in April, receiving 1,024 votes, or 1.1 percent of total ballots cast, in the First State’s Democratic presidential primary.

He gained ballot access in the general election in 20 states and was a write-in in others, including Delaware. Ultimately, he garnered 33,136 votes nationwide in November, running on the newly formed American Delta Party ticket while also being backed by the Reform Party.

While many are skeptical, Mr. De La Fuente insists he’s serious. The American people, he says, need a chance to be represented in a way they deserve.

“I truly feel that the balance of this country is hanging in this election,” he said.

His website claims he is running because “American politics are broken and desperately need national election reform.” The campaigns, his website boasts, are Mr. De La Fuente’s way of “putting his money where his mouth is” and offering Americans a choice outside of the “two-party domination (that has made) it virtually impossible for common sense alternatives.”

His webpage notes he is seeking multiple Senate seats “but technically could be on the ballot in 33 states simultaneously…its Loony Toons!”

Mr. De La Fuente believes he has good name recognition in Delaware and intends to focus on the First State after Aug. 28, the date of Florida’s U.S. Senate primary, in which he hopes to upset Gov. Rick Scott to claim the GOP nomination for the seat.

However, he is viewed by experts and pollsters as an afterthought not just in Florida but in other states.

A May 31 poll by Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West reported 21 percent of participants supported Mr. De La Fuente’s bid for the U.S. Senate in California, but he ended up garnering 2 percent in the state’s primary last month.

It’s unlikely he will impact Delaware’s elections, either. Running for the GOP nomination for Senate are Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett, former financial services professional Gene Truono and Mr. De La Fuente. On the Democratic side, Kerri Evelyn Harris hopes to unseat Sen. Tom Carper, who has held the seat for almost 18 years.

Libertarian Nadine Frost and Green Demitri Theodoropoulos are also running and do not have primary foes.

While Mr. De La Fuente did not point to Sen. Carper specifically — in fact, the Californian said he could not recall the name of Delaware’s senior senator and his possible future opponent off the top of his head — terms like “career politician” seem to target Sen. Carper, who has served continuously in elected office for 42 years.

“They will always be on the safe side, they will not do what the people want,” he said of long-time politicians.

Mr. De La Fuente may be trying to win the hearts and minds of Republicans, but he’s not a fan of the party’s standard-bearer. President Trump, he said, is “egotistic” and has many ideas, such as building a massive wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, that are impractical and expensive. The president’s zero tolerance immigration policy is also cruel, he opined.

Many of Mr. De La Fuente’s priorities and policies — fighting climate change, limiting campaign contributions, supporting most immigrants and promoting alternatives to incarceration for criminal offenses — lean left, as if his task of winning a Republican primary in a state he doesn’t live in wasn’t difficult enough.

He noted several times in an interview he hopes to appeal to voters with “common sense” and claimed election fraud and collusion between the Democratic Party and the campaign of Hillary Clinton prevented him from winning the presidency.

Mr. De La Fuente said he ran as a Democrat in 2016 because it was easier to stand out in a smaller field but now is listed as a Republican after President Trump’s success.

“Basically, I’m building a brand, building my name,” he said.

The primary is Sept. 6.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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