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Missouri Voters Will Find Crowded Presidential Ballot

Brian Ellison
KCUR 89.3
Primary voters may find more names than they are expecting on the ballot Tuesday.

When Missouri voters go to the polls in next Tuesday’s presidential preference primary, they might be surprised by their choices — mainly how many there are.

Not happy with the big-name candidates? You have alternatives.

How about a convicted felon from Texas? He will be on the Democratic ballot. Or maybe a grandfather from Illinois who announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in a video shot in his kitchen? A Libertarian from Texas who ran for Missouri Secretary of State in 2004 under a different name?

Anyone who can serve as president and pays $1,000 — or who gathers 5,000 signatures and swears they can’t afford the filing fee — can appear on the Missouri ballot. Five Libertarians, nine Democrats and 12 Republicans did just that. You’ve heard of some of them; but there are likely others you've never heard of …

The dozen Republicans

The GOP ballot is crowded. Not so much with unknowns, but with the candidates who have fallen by the wayside since the Iowa caucuses … or even before. The four leading candidates — Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump — are joined by the likes of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum — who have all dropped out of the race but were still in it when the ballots were set.

But voters probably won't recognize the name of Jim Lynch, 76, who retired after 27 years as director of administration of the Catholic Diocese of Joliet, Illinois. The Missouri primary represents the apex of his campaign — it's the only state election he mentions on his slick campaign website.That site also includes regular blog posts summarizing his views: “What makes Jim Lynch Different?” the site asked on March 10. “Jim doesn’t have ideas, Jim has solutions.” In one https://youtu.be/U4nJH2lxswY">video, Lynch emerges from a corn field to describe his plan “to re-energize our nation, to reignite our economy and re-establish the country that we have known and loved.”

The Democratic 9

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are joined on their ballot by former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley— who suspended his campaign last month — and by six other men whose electoral and political backgrounds range from the chronically inexperienced to the perennially unsuccessful ... to the outright criminal.

Back in 2012, President Obama lost 40 percent of the vote in the West Virginia Democratic primary to Keith Judd, who — incidentally — was in a Texas prison serving time for mailing threats of violence. He's back for 2016, maintaining his innocence — that’s a central focus of his campaign website — and also condemning a variety of Obama administration policies on health care and environmental regulation. Earlier this month, Judd lost his home state of Texas to Clinton; he finished fifth with 2500 votes, about 0.17 percent of the total votes cast.

Like Judd, John Wolfe is trying to reignite a 2012 glimmer of success, when he garnered 42 percent of the vote in the Arkansas presidential primary to claim a few delegates from President Obama. It was his greatest electoral moment amid a string of disappointments; the Chattanooga, Tennessee, attorney lost a mayoral bid in 2001; four congressional races; and a state senate race in 2007, when he racked up a $10,000 fine for failing to properly file financial disclosure forms.

Chicago’s Willie Wilson made news last year by getting 11 percent of the vote in the Windy City’s mayoral election and forcing a runoff. The self-described “philanthropist, entrepreneur, recording artist and first-year politician” promotes his rise from poverty to wealth and told Illinois Public Radiothat he is running to give African-Americans a voice in this year's race. The last post to his campaign website(from Jan. 28) says Wilson “espouses decided liberal social ideas” and “criticizes the United States’ frequent involvement in overseas wars.”

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente probably doesn’t mind if you think he’s a politician who sounds like a car salesman; he at one point owned 28 new car franchises in California. (He sold most of them.) Long active in state party politics, De La Fuente’s websitesuggests he won’t collect a paycheck until homelessness is cut in half, a million new jobs are generated and 100 new city parks are built — though it is not clear which cities those parks will be in.

And at least one candidate has a name with proven success at winning a presidential election. In fact, Jon Adams says on his website that he is the second president’s “third cousin many times removed.” The campaign has attracted little attention, despite its ambitious goals, which include curing every disease in 10 years and colonizing Mars and the moon. Adams says he remains a “reluctant candidate,” willing if called upon to add president to his resume, alongside plaintiff’s lawyer and college philosophy instructor.

Henry Hewes is likely the only Democratic candidate to have worked on the earlier presidential campaigns of conservative Republicans Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan. Hewes opposes abortion rights, the death penalty and, according to his website, the Internal Revenue Service.

Five Libertarians and an empty Constitution (ballot)

Voters asking for a Libertarian Party ballot Tuesday will find five choices:

  • Austin Petersen: Long active in Libertarian politics, the former Fox Business Network producer’s campaign motto is “Taking Over Government to Leave Everyone Alone.”
  • Steven Elliott Kerbel:A businessperson and the author of the non-fiction book Take “Everyman” Down: A 12-Step Program to Servitude of the American Populace and Destruction of the American Dream," Kerbel promises to end the government's war on individual freedoms.
  • Rhett Smith: The Texan claims that Donald Trump’s effort to “make America great again” can, according to Smith’s website, “only be accomplished by addressing discriminatory actions of the motion picture industry and the public education system,” particularly in their portrayal of non-white Americans.
  • Cecil Ince:  The veteran of Missouri elections was the Libertarian nominee for a state House seat in 2002 and Missouri Secretary of State in 2004, running under the name Christopher Davis.  Now living in Texas, he says he believes in "Austrian economics" and “anarcho-capitalism in a free market economy.”
  • Marc Allan Feldman: outlines his campaign vision—the elimination of big money in campaign finance—at his website, named for his campaign motto: “Votes Not For Sale.” A prominently placed blog post there asks hip-hop artist Kanye West to consider being Feldman’s running mate. It does not appear West has responded to the offer.

Meanwhile, loyal voters of the Constitution Party will find the least confusion when they ask for their ballot, as it will contain just one option: Uncommitted. For those who get to Tuesday and still can’t decide how they should vote, the Constitution ballot offers the perfect solution: Don’t decide at all.
Brian Ellison is a host/contributor who also co-hosts KCUR's political podcast, Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter, @ptsbrian.

As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
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