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‘Lesser-known candidates’ for president include 2 from NC

Lloyd Kelso
Lloyd Kelso

It’s become a ritual at St. Anselm College, a small liberal arts school in Manchester, N.H.

Candidates head there to debate ahead of the nation’s first presidential primary. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and a dozen others all have made the snowy pilgrimage.

Now add Lloyd Kelso and Tim Cook to the list.

Kelso, a Gastonia lawyer, and Cook, a onetime textile chemist from Guilford County, took the stage at St. Anselm last week for what’s known as the Lesser-Known Candidates Forum.

Both are on the crowded New Hampshire ballot for the Feb. 9 primary. Kelso is one of 28 Democratic candidates. Cook, one of 30 Republicans.

There was no Donald Trump to hog the limelight when Cook joined four other lesser-known Republicans on the stage last week. No Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders to steal attention from Kelso and 17 other Democrats.

They talked about the budget and guns and foreign affairs. They also brought up things the Better Known candidates don’t.

One New York Republican said he would reduce the federal deficit by mining the resources of other planets and setting up a manufacturing colony on the moon.

According to the Manchester Union Leader, one Massachusetts Democrat said he decided to enter the race after conducting focus groups in Indonesia. A New York Democrat called for a moment of silence for Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey.

Cook, a perennial North Carolina candidate, said he would lock up Hillary Clinton in Guantanamo.

But even a forum with their peers was frustrating for some candidates.

“It was a pretty difficult night trying to get attention,” Kelso recalls. “I was waving my hand in the air trying.”

That could be a metaphor for all their campaigns. Earlier this month, Kelso and another Democrat met at a Country Inn & Suites in nearby Bedford for what they called the Second Tier Democratic Forum. They posted the video on Facebook.

Kelso, who had raised $33,000 by the end of last year (most from a loan), is running on a platform of helping working people. He favors a balanced budget amendment, legalized medical marijuana and a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

He’s campaigned since May in Iowa and New Hampshire. Despite the lack of attention, Kelso doesn’t believe he’s tilting at windmills.

“I think it’s very realistic,” he said of his campaign. “I don’t pay a lot of attention to what people say in terms of the naysayers. I’ve always been an overachiever. And that’s what I intend to do here.”

Like most of the others, Kelso faces the problem of getting on ballots outside New Hampshire, and is even considering an independent run, if it comes to that.

There was another candidate at the St. Anselm forum with a better shot. Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente of San Diego will be on the Democratic ballot in North Carolina and two-dozen other states. He qualified in Ohio while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley did not.

And De La Fuente also has a newly found North Carolina tie:

He’s rented a lakefront home in the Steele Creek community for the duration of the campaign.