Donald Trump will be presented to California voters on Nov. 8 as the nominee of two different political parties, after leaders of the ultra-conservative American Independent Party voted to select the New York real estate developer as its standard bearer.
It will be the first time a presidential candidate is listed on the California ballot as the choice of two parties in at least 80 years, state election officials said.
"We are the demographic that Trump is appealing to," said Markham Robinson, the secretary of the American Independent Party of California. "We are heeding the voice of our voters."
Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov.
The party, headquartered in Robinson's Solano County home, has more registered voters than all of California's other minor parties combined. But an investigation by The Times in April found a number of voters who thought they were registered as a nonpartisan "independent" and had mistakenly selected the AIP when filling out their registration card.
An exclusive poll of AIP voters conducted for The Times found 73% of those surveyed had no idea they were registered with an actual party, and a subsequent review of state voter registration records found that included a number of Hollywood celebrities.
The state's American Independent Party traces its roots back to the 1968 insurgent presidential campaign of Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Its platform includes sharply conservative positions on abortion, as well as opposition to same-sex marriage and illegal immigration.
Trump's stance on immigration, especially his promise to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, was especially appealing to AIP members who voted on the party's nomination.
"Obviously, the man is not opposed to immigration, because he's imported workers," Robinson said. "He's against dangerous immigration and unfair immigration."
The size of AIP voter registration in California — more than 457,000 in the late May report by Secretary of State Alex Padilla — ensures the party's spot on the statewide ballot. Party leaders wanted to include Trump on the June 7 primary ballot, but Padilla's office refused because there was no evidence the GOP candidate wanted the endorsement.
Seven AIP candidates for president were on the June ballot, each one receiving fewer than 9,000 votes. Markham said anecdotal data from a few counties showed Trump was a popular write-in candidate, though those votes weren't counted.
A spokesman for Padilla said state election law allows a presidential candidate to have multiple parties listed next to his or her name, but records dating back to 1936 offer no proof of it happening before now.
Whether Trump will embrace the AIP seal of approval remains unclear.
"Mr. Trump's campaign did not seek the endorsement or nomination of the American Independent Party," Tim Clark, Trump's state director, said in an emailed statement. Clark and AIP officials both confirmed they spoke about the nomination Saturday.
Still, state AIP leaders believe their minor party could provide a noticeable boost.
"They appreciate that our brand is going to have some impact," Robinson said. "It's going to encourage people to get out there and vote."