For the past five days, 135 Rhode Islanders have been scrambling to get 150 signatures apiece. If they succeed in collecting the required amount of signatures, they’ll be on the presidential primary ballot April 24.
The 135 hopefuls, 83 Republicans and 52 Democrats, are aiming to become delegates for their respective national conventions later in the year. Delegate hopefuls began collecting signatures late last week and had until today at 4 p.m. to get 150.
Patrick Sweeney, executive director of the Rhode Island GOP, said the Republican Party has been helping to collect signatures through parties similar to those they held several weeks ago to help Republican presidential candidates get onto the April 24 ballot.
In Rhode Island, the Republican Party is allotted 16 delegates, plus three super-delegates, who are already chosen. The three Republican super-delegates are GOP National Committeeman Rep. Joseph Trillo (R-Dist. 24, Warwick), GOP Chairman Mark Zaccaria and GOP National Committeewoman Carol Mumford.
Democrats have 22 open delegate positions, and 25 super delegates that will be chosen in the late spring by the Democratic National Committee. The delegates for both parties are split evenly between the First and Second Congressional Districts.
Once the delegate hopefuls collect the required amount of signatures, they will be placed on the presidential primary ballot, and those who obtain the most votes will be selected to attend their party’s national convention. There will also be an equal amount of alternates (16 for Republicans, and 22 for Democrats) selected.
Four years ago, delegates had 17 days to collect the required 150 signatures, but this year they had only five days.
“It’s a daunting task,” said Democratic delegate hopeful Ryan Patrick Kelley of Warwick. “All of the signatures have to be verified, so if the name doesn’t match the address, it doesn’t count.”
Kelley is no stranger to collecting signatures, and canvassed for Hillary Clinton prior to the 2008 presidential election. Kelley’s passion for politics began in high school when a teacher encouraged him to join the model legislature. Today he works for Senator Donna Nesselbush of Pawtucket.
But this is the first time Kelley has campaigned and canvassed for himself, having never sought office or a delegate position before.
Yesterday, Kelley stopped at various local businesses and Warwick City Hall, and had collected 100 signatures by the early afternoon. By 4 p.m. today, Kelley must turn in his signatures to be verified.
Come the spring, Kelley will have to begin campaigning again, this time to ensure he can get enough people to vote for him during the April 24 primary.
“That becomes the challenge,” he said. “I’ll start campaigning within my inner circle and work my way out.”
Kelley, who freelances as a social media expert, plans to use tools like Twitter and Facebook to make his campaign known.
His biggest competition, he said, would be the state representative and senators who are also vying for delegate slots.
“They already have name recognition,” he said. “It will be an uphill challenge, but I don’t view it as a competition.”
The Democratic National Convention will be held in September in Charlotte, N.C. Kelley said he hopes to be able to attend and network with fellow Democrats.
“I’ll get to meet so many people from all different backgrounds,” he said. “It’s like we’re casting our votes ceremoniously.”
The Republican National Convention will be held in Tampa starting on Aug. 27. For Republicans, delegates will be divided up evenly amongst presidential candidates that attain at least 15 percent of the statewide vote. Delegate hopefuls must declare their preferred candidate in order to up their chances of being elected.