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The owner of a Cadillac car dealership in suburban San Diego could become the first person in modern history to submit enough signatures to qualify for a spot on Michigan’s presidential primary ballot.

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, 61, submitted petitions last Friday to the Secretary of State’s Office containing 20,166 signatures of Michigan voters in an effort to make the March 8 ballot.

De La Fuente needs a minimum of 12,823 signatures to qualify for a spot on the Democratic part of the ballot alongside former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The state Bureau of Elections is now canvassing the signatures to verify their authenticity, spokesman Fred Woodhams said.

“No candidate under the modern presidential primary system, which dates to 1972, has submitted signatures to attempt to get on the primary ballot,” Woodhams said in an email. “This is a first.”

Most candidates for the major parties are put on the primary ballot by a state party chair or the secretary of state. Last Friday was the deadline for candidates to submit nominating petitions or remove their name from the ballot. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who dropped out of the race in November, asked for his name to be removed, Woodhams said.

In an interview with The Detroit News, De La Fuente said he was aided by volunteers in the state as well as paid petition circulators to gather the signatures in a week.

“It’s not easy to collect 20,166 signatures in seven days,” said De La Fuente, who has owned a Cadillac dealership in El Cajon, California, for 35 years. “There’s people who get free tickets to the movie theater or opera, and there’s people like you and me who have to get it the old-fashioned way.”

De La Fuente, who said he’s on the ballot in 16 other states, said he petitioned Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon to be placed on the ballot and avoid the signature-gathering hurdle.

Dillon said Wednesday he had never heard of De La Fuente until the man or someone with his campaign staff called the state party headquarters.

“We didn’t feel that he met the criteria for our standard to just automatically recommend him for the ballot,” Dillon told The News.

De La Fuente, who described himself as a “conservative Democrat,” speculated that O’Malley will soon drop out of the race and support Clinton after Saturday’s Democratic debate in Manchester, N.H.

“This is a three-way race – Hillary, Sanders and me,” De La Fuente told The News.

Snyder: No regrets on Prop 1

It seems Gov. Rick Snyder would prefer to forget the thumping he and the Republican-controlled Legislature took in May when 80 percent of voters rejected the 1-cent sales tax increase he championed to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads.

“It wasn’t a pleasant experience, I think that’s fair to say in terms of time and resources,” Snyder said Monday in an interview with The Detroit News Editorial Board.

Snyder was asked whether he regrets getting behind the Legislature’s ballot proposal, which was widely criticized because it was not solely focused on fixing roads. The wide-ranging proposal contained new money for schools, municipalities and tax breaks for the working poor that Democrats wanted.

After a summer-long tug of war with lawmakers, Snyder finally got a $1.2 billion road funding package on his desk in November, though it contains half the tax increase the second-term Republican governor had wanted.

“You can’t live life in retrospect, you just keep pushing ahead,” Snyder told The News. “And I always viewed it that you learn from things that didn’t work out.”

Romney super PAC fined $50K

The Federal Election Commission has issued a $50,000 fine to the super political action committee Restore Our Future, which supported Detroit native Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

The FEC says the group illegally paid to air an ad in 2012 that was originally produced and aired by the 2008 Romney campaign. The ad, called “The Search,” featured Romney’s efforts in 1996 to help locate the daughter of a Bain Capital colleague who had gone missing.

Under federal election law, super PACs are prohibited from donating to candidates, and the commission considers the republication of campaign materials prepared by the candidate or his or her campaign to be a contribution.

The super PAC told the FEC that it believed Romney as a candidate for president in 2008 was legally distinct from Romney as a candidate for president in 2012.

It also did not report the ad spending as contributions to Romney’s campaign, in violation of campaign finance law. Restore Our Future agreed to pay a civil penalty of $50,000, according to the FEC.

Contributors: Chad Livengood and Melissa Nann Burke

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