RFK Jr. to announce running mate for independent presidential bid

Oakland, California — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is set to announce his running mate Tuesday, in Oakland, California, as his campaign faces questions about ballot access in several states that require a named vice presidential candidate during the petition process. 

A few names have already been circulating, including NFL player Aaron Rodgers, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, and wealthy Democratic donor Nicole Shanahan.  The Kennedy campaign has so far kept the name secret and denied it wanted to turn the process into “a guessing game.”

“We know it sucks waiting till the 26th,” senior Kennedy campaign adviser Link Lauren posted on X earlier this month “We’ve all discussed, including Bobby, how our campaign is run on transparency and honesty, and the media hysteria isn’t fun for our loyal supporters. We’ve had to lean into the media’s ‘Veepstakes’ cause what else is there to do?” 

Here are some of the names Kennedy is said to be considering:

Nicole Shanahan

Shanahan, an affluent California-based attorney and entrepreneur, also known for her high-profile divorce from Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is thought to be a leading contender, particularly since the campaign will require substantial funding in the months ahead.

The 38-year-old contributed $4 million to the super PAC supporting Kennedy, American Values 2024, and was involved in coordinating the production of a Super Bowl ad highlighting Kennedy’s campaign. 

Shanahan told The New York Times that she paid for the ad production and its airing because she believed Kennedy would provide more screening risks for vaccines and “it seems like a great opportunity to highlight that he’s running for president,” though she added that she is “not an anti-vaxxer.”

Shanahan’s substantial financial resources would undoubtedly be helpful to Kennedy, who faces the formidable and expensive challenge of obtaining ballot access, which is likely to cost millions and requires hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Aaron Rodgers

The 40-year-old Green Bay Packers quarterback, now with the New York Jets, shares Kennedy’s skepticism of COVID-19 vaccines. 

In 2021, Rodgers confirmed his own unvaccinated status just days after testing positive for COVID-19, forcing him to sit out a Sunday football game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I believe strongly in bodily autonomy, and the ability to make choices for your body, not to have to acquiesce to some woke culture where a crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something. Health is not a one-size-fits-all,” Rodgers said in an interview with “The Pat McAfee Show.”

Kennedy first told The New York Times that NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a leading candidate on his list, and campaign spokesperson Stefanie Spear confirmed he was on the shortlist.

Jesse Ventura

Kennedy also told the Times he has talked with former Minnesota Gov. and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura about serving as his running mate.

Ventura, 72, a one-term governor who ran on the Reform Party ticket, said he’d consider the job, though he disagrees with Kennedy’s opposition to vaccines.

Tyrel Ventura, Mr. Ventura’s son, told the Times, “No one has officially asked Gov. Ventura to be a vice-presidential candidate, so the governor does not comment on speculation.”

Tulsi Gabbard

Former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, 42, hasn’t denied she was approached by Kennedy, but when asked about it on the Jackman Radio show last week, only said, “I’m gonna let Bobby Kennedy speak for himself. He’s a good friend and I really love and respect him and his heart and why he’s doing what he’s doing.” 

At CPAC in February, however, Gabbard showered praise on former President Donald Trump in her address.

Mike Rowe 

Mike Rowe, the 62-year-old former host of “Dirty Jobs” TV series, told CNN that he received a call from Kennedy about being his vice president.

The 62-year-old said they discussed vocational training and his foundation, mikeroweWORKS. Kennedy asked if he’d consider running for public office, prompting Rowe’s surprise.

“Yeah, he called. Actually, I ran into him about six months ago in Dallas, totally serendipitously, and we exchanged information and he reached out about a month ago,” Rowe said. “At some point, he asked me if I would ever consider running for public office, and I spit my coffee back into my cup and I said, ‘Seriously?'” 

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