Robert F. Kennedy Jr. campaign says it has qualified for North Carolina ballot

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has qualified for the North Carolina ballot as an independent candidate for President, according to various reports citing Kennedy’s campaign.

The former Democrat is running without party affiliation, making his path to the White House difficult, at best. But, given his strong name recognition as the son of assassinated former U.S. Senator, Attorney General and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of assassinated former President John F. Kennedy, both Democrats and Republicans are worried he will siphon votes from those disenchanted with their major party choices in Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican former President Donald Trump, who is the GOP’s presumptive nominee. 

Kennedy has openly acknowledged his arduous journey in an independent presidential bid. Still, in announcing his pick for vice presidential running mate, California attorney and philanthropist Nicole Shanahan, Kennedy said that if they “can get Americans to refuse to vote from fear,” they will “be in the White House in November.” His comment is slightly off, considering that while a President will be elected or re-elected in November, they will not be inaugurated until January. 

Kennedy’s campaign reportedly announced that it had gathered 23,000 petition signatures in North Carolina to qualify for the ballot as a “We The People” third-party candidate and that it has “field teams, volunteers, legal teams, paid circulators, supporters and strategists” ready to deploy in the state. 

While Kennedy’s bid is considered a long shot, it’s not being ruled out as a potential spoiler. That is all the more true in North Carolina, a battleground state expected to be crucial to either Biden or Trump on their respective paths to victory. The Biden campaign was just in North Carolina last week touting its health care record — and bashing Trump’s lack thereof — and Vice President Kamala Harris will be in the state again this week to talk up administration efforts on climate change. 

Democrats worry that, as a former Democrat, Kennedy will be able to appeal to moderates disenchanted with Biden or those worried about his age. But Republicans are also concerned about bleeding votes to Kennedy, who has gained a reputation for conspiratorial-driven viewpoints, such as anti-vaccine rhetoric that contradicted scientific consensus. Several polls have shown that Republican voters were far more likely to be skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine than independents or Democrats, meaning Kennedy’s activism on the issue could attract voters disillusioned by Trump. 

The Kennedy campaign hopes his new running mate will help drum up support. Shanahan has never held elected office — often a draw for those willing to vote third or no-party — and runs a foundation that directs money toward various social issues such as reproductive science, the environment, and criminal justice reform.

Shanahan was previously married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin and has connections to individuals and companies embedded within Silicon Valley, which Kennedy often criticizes. 

Biden’s campaign is working to thwart the Kennedy campaign by calling out his controversial views and painting him as nothing more than a spoiler whose own family has all but denounced him — posting a photo last month of dozens of Kennedys posing with Biden at a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House, which Kennedy Jr.’s sister posted to social media. 

Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, is taking a different approach. They are painting him as “a far-left radical that supports reparations, backs the Green New Deal, and wants to ban fracking,” according to a statement after Kennedy announced Shanahan as his running mate. 

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. In early 2022, she left the business to serve as Communications Director for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. After leaving the administration, Janelle briefly worked as a communications consultant for candidates, businesses and non-profits, before accepting her position as Publisher for Southeast Politics, a homecoming of sorts to her Florida Politics roots, where she served as a reporter and editor for several years. Janelle has also held roles covering the intersection of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and general assignment news with an emphasis on social justice and climate change for WMNF Community Radio, where she also hosted a political call-in show under several names, including Last Call, Midpoint and The Scoop. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]

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