Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Meet Trump’s used car salesman primary challenger

His name is Rocky!
His name is Rocky!
Photo: Brian Killian/WireImage/Getty Images
Wiki WormholeWe explore some of Wikipedia’s oddities in our 5,664,405-week series, Wiki Wormhole.

This week’s entry: Rocky De La Fuente

What it’s about: It’s still early in the presidential election season, but many candidates have fallen by the wayside, many of them giving pretty solid reasons not to vote for them. Andrew Yang has no experience. Michael Bloomberg can’t decide if he’s a Democrat or a Republican. Bill Weld is trying to unseat a sitting president. Marianne Williamson is a laughably unqualified grifter who has no business running. But there’s one candidate who’s in it to the end, despite combining every one of these faults like a fringe candidate Voltron: used car dealer-turned-serial-candidate Rocky De La Fuente, who’s running to unseat Trump for the Republican nomination, four years after running in the Democratic primary, and just two years after running for the U.S. Senate. In nine different states.

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Biggest controversy: De La Fuente is a better businessman than Trump, if not a more honest one. His father, Roque Antonio De La Fuente Alexander, owned multiple car dealerships and business parks, and Rocky (from “Roque”) followed in his footsteps, opening 28 car dealerships of his own and three banks, before taking over his father’s businesses upon his death. He also received a settlement for $38.7 million from San Diego County for land the county acquired to build a prison.

In 2004, the FDIC barred Rocky “from participating in any FDIC-insured institution,” which covers virtually any legitimate bank. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed half the order (Wikipedia isn’t clear on which half), but even in ruling in De La Fuente’s favor, the court said, “De La Fuente’s use of [First International Bank] as his personal piggy bank was in shocking disregard of sound banking practices and the law.” And yet even after that statement, the court recommended the FDIC remove sanctions, as we’re not in the habit of punishing rich people in this country, no matter how corrupt.

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Strangest fact: In 2016, De La Fuente ran under three different parties’ banners. He ran in the Democratic primary, largely because it had a smaller field of candidates—there were 17 Republicans running, whereas the Democratic field was essentially just Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, meaning De La Fuente came in third in several states, albeit a very distant third. His main campaign issue was a strong opposition to Donald Trump’s immigration policies. (De La Fuente is Mexican American and spent his childhood on both sides of the border, as his father owned businesses in both countries.) The small field meant that De La Fuente’s 0.22% of the primary vote put him in a solid fourth, behind Clinton, Sanders, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who got less than twice the votes De La Fuente did, despite being remotely qualified. (although in fairness, O’Malley dropped out after Iowa, while as far as we can tell, Rocky stayed in it to the bitter end).

Undaunted by his loss to Clinton, De La Fuente founded his own party, the American Delta Party, which, despite sounding like a frat party movie from the ’80s, stood for “social progressivism,” “fiscal responsibility,” and “electoral reform,” but was really about getting De La Fuente on the ballot in as many states as possible (which turned out to be 20). He was also the nominee of the Reform Party, founded by Ross Perot for his significant independent and third-party runs in 1992 and 1996. To the shock of most Americans, the Reform Party continues to exist, with a downward slide into irrelevance that saw it run Pat Buchanan (who only secured the nomination after Donald Trump turned it down), Ralph Nader (who only appeared on the ballot on seven states), Mississippi party chairman Ted Weill (who only appeared on the ballot in his home state), Andre Barnett (best known for founding a technology firm called WiseDome; he received fewer than 1,000 votes nationwide), and finally De La Fuente, whose 33,136 votes represented a huge turnaround in the Reform Party’s fortunes, as his 0.02% of the vote was Reform’s largest share since Nader got a commanding 0.4% back in 2004.

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Thing we were happiest to learn: Rocky is setting up a dynasty of failed vanity candidates. His son Roque De La Fuente III ran in several of this Super Tuesday’s primaries as a Democrat, even as his father was running in many of the same states as a Republican. (Both father and son have struggled for ballot access, and California, Idaho, Texas, and Vermont are the only states where both De La Fuentes were able to run.)

Thing we were unhappiest to learn: In 2017, De La Fuente sought to unseat Democrat Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York by running for the Republican nomination. City law requires candidates be residents of the city before they can run. De La Fuente wasn’t but claimed he attempted to buy an apartment but was turned down because he is Hispanic. Then, after the second- and third-place candidates dropped out, leaving Rocky and state assemblywoman (and eventual nominee) Nicole Malliotakis, the board of elections found De La Fuente hadn’t collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, so he was forced to drop out as well.

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Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: If De La Fuente is too mainstream a candidate for your tastes, there’s always Vermin Supreme. The performance-artist-turned-attention-seeker has run for president in every election since 2004, and finished 17th in the same 2016 primary where De La Fuente finished fourth, garnering 268 votes nationwide. Supreme’s two main political positions are that 1) abolishing the government and “letting shit fall where it may,” as libertarians advocate, would be a mistake, and 2) we should abolish the government. Supreme campaigns while wearing a large boot on his head and carrying an oversized toothbrush, promising that as president, he will require all Americans to brush their teeth. Other planks in his political platform include “zombie apocalypse awareness and time travel research.” He’s also promised every American a free pony, but unlike Elizabeth Warren, isn’t dogged with questions about how he is going to pay for them.

Further down the Wormhole: While following in his father’s footsteps in business was probably the obvious path for De La Fuente, he earned his college degree in math and physics, so perhaps he would have eschewed politics for science in another life. Physics, of course, is the study of matter, motion, energy, and force, the underlying mechanics of the universe. Nuclear physics, specifically, is the study of how atoms’ nuclei act and interact. The obvious applications are nuclear power and atomic weapons, but there’s also a field of nuclear medicine, which generally involves injecting a patient with a radioactive isotope in order to produce an image of what’s going on inside their body in order to diagnose a medical issue. The isotope in question is usually molybdenum-99, a byproduct of nuclear fission. Most of North America’s supply came from one source, the Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, until the reactor was shut down in 2018. The reactor ran for 74 years despite being the site of two separate disasters in the 1950s, one of which was foiled with the help of another budding scientist-turned-politician, Jimmy Carter. We’ll don our radiation suits and revisit Chalk River next week.

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Host of the podcast Why Is This Not a Movie? His sixth book, The Planets Are Very, Very, Very Far Away is due in early 2021. He tells people he lives in New York, but he really lives in New Jersey.

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