In a significant move towards the 2024 presidential race, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has officially filed to run as an independent candidate in Utah after successfully meeting the 1,000-signature requirement essential for ballot inclusion. This marks the inaugural state where the prominent anti-vaccine activist and independent candidate has qualified for the upcoming election.
At a campaign event in Salt Lake City, Kennedy, surrounded by volunteers, disclosed the submission of his candidacy in Utah earlier that day. Campaign spokesperson Stefanie Spear affirmed that Utah is the first state where Kennedy’s campaign has submitted signatures and achieved ballot access, with expectations that Arizona might follow suit.
Kennedy seized the opportunity to critique the formidable barriers faced by candidates without major party backing, emphasizing that stringent requirements in certain states create almost insurmountable challenges to challenge the political “chokehold” exerted by Republicans and Democrats in U.S. politics. He asserted, “This process is forcing us to build our army now, and we’re going to have a better army on the street and in the trenches in November 2024.”
The scion of the renowned Democratic Kennedy family, an environmental lawyer by profession, diverged from the party last fall to embark on an independent White House bid. As the son of former senator and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and a nephew of Democratic President John F. Kennedy, Kennedy brings a unique political lineage to the race.
Kennedy gained prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic for his endorsement of public health conspiracy theories, amassing a dedicated following of individuals who question the scientific consensus on vaccine safety and effectiveness.
Successfully gaining ballot access in Utah, Kennedy’s candidacy rekindles discussions about the potential spoiler role that an independent candidate could play for the eventual Democratic and Republican nominees. While it remains unlikely for an independent or third-party candidate to secure the presidency, they have the potential to divert support from major candidates, influencing the outcome.
Concerns about Kennedy acting as a spoiler have arisen among allies of both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, who are the probable nominees for their respective parties. Both Biden and Trump face challenges in popularity, increasing the prospect that third-party support could sway the results in the 2024 elections.
In an era of escalating political polarization, Kennedy positions himself in the middle, aligning with influential figures on the far right while highlighting his environmentalist background.
The extent of Kennedy’s ballot access across states remains uncertain, as each state establishes its own unique requirements. The process of collecting signatures and navigating legal obstacles can be financially burdensome for candidates lacking support from major parties.
American Values 2024, a super PAC backing Kennedy, has committed to investing up to $15 million to assist him in securing ballot access in crucial states. Kennedy’s success in Utah was facilitated by a legal triumph in a lawsuit filed last month, challenging the state’s candidate filing deadline.
Complicating matters, Kennedy’s anti-vaccine organization is currently entangled in a lawsuit against several news organizations, including The Associated Press, alleging violations of antitrust laws for taking action to identify misinformation about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines. Although Kennedy distanced himself from the group upon announcing his presidential bid, he is still listed as one of its attorneys in the ongoing lawsuit. The AP and other news entities have sought the dismissal of the lawsuit.