AUSTIN, Texas — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. campaign is beating ballot access expectations.

The campaign turned in more than twice the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot in Texas, which requires more than 100,000 signatures from registered voters.

Kennedy and his rookie campaign team’s ability to reach the requirement is an organizational feat — one they’re repeating in state after state.

“The pundits, who at the beginning of this campaign, were saying it would be impossible for us to get on the ballot, and we got on the ballot in Texas,” Kennedy said at a rally in Austin, Texas, after delivering the petitions to the Secretary of State’s office. “And if we can get on in Texas, we can get on everywhere.”

Kennedy and his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, are now on the ballot in four states. They have finished signature gathering in nine more and are circulating petitions for 29 others.

The campaign hopes to defy the odds and get on the ballot in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., — ensuring that his candidacy will affect the November election.

“In the last two or three months, I’ve been very impressed with the Kennedy operation for being able to smartly maneuver and get on ballots that were expensive and difficult,” said Michael Arno, whose ballot access firm worked with No Labels. ”It sounds like they’ve done very well in both Texas and New York, and that’s very impressive and a real feather in their cap.”

Getting ballot access as an independent candidate after quitting the Democratic Party primary in October seemed unlikely for Kennedy. Typically independent candidates must plan for months or even years before launching a third-party candidacy.

Unlike the Libertarian and Green parties, which have established grassroots support, local chapters and, in some cases, existing ballot access, Kennedy’s campaign started from scratch in October.

Communications director Del Bigtree said in an interview at the Austin rally, which drew about 400 people, that ballot access is not not even a major issue for the campaign.

The campaign has succeeded in gathering signatures in states with strenuous requirements like Texas and New York while also pursuing other avenues to ballot access. In California, which would have required 75,000 signatures, and Michigan, Kennedy enlisted the help of existing third parties that already have a spot on the November ballot. In Iowa, his campaign hosted a one-day convention to nominate him with the backing of 500 registered voters from across the state.

The combination of efforts has helped the campaign gain momentum, with limited resources.

“In a nutshell, he’s succeeding,” said Richard Winger, a ballot access expert who runs the website Ballot Access News and with whom the campaign has shared their internal signature gathering stats.

Still, the campaign has made missteps.

Kennedy will have to re-collect more than 10,000 signatures in Nevada because his campaign began circulating its petitions before it named the ticket’s vice presidential candidate. (A clerk at the Nevada Secretary of State’s office erroneously told the Kennedy campaign it didn’t need to include a vice president on nominating papers.)

The campaign also had to pivot away from working with an outside super PAC supporting Kennedy to gather signatures. The PAC, American Values 2024, initially planned to collect signatures in seven states, including several battlegrounds, with a dedicated budget of up to $15 million.

But just weeks after a complaint from the Democratic National Committee to the Federal Election Commission, American Values cut its ballot access work. It has already spent close to $2.5 million on its effort.

The Kennedy campaign is now re-collecting signatures in places where American Values 2024 had already finished canvassing — Georgia, Arizona and South Carolina. Press Secretary Stefanie Spear said the campaign is “100 percent separate from the PAC.”

“They’ve been somewhat inefficient, but that’s not surprising because they’re all doing this for the first time,” Winger said. “But they’re competent.”

Kennedy has relied on a combination of volunteers and paid signature-gatherers. The campaign has spent $390,000 on professional signature gathering from Trent Pool’s firm Accelerate 2020 as well as about $34,000 on other ballot access consulting, according to the campaign’s financial disclosures to the FEC.

“I don’t think he ever thought he could get on [ballots] with all volunteers, and he didn’t. He never could have done this in Texas without paid petitioners. The same way in New York,” Winger said. “But a lot of the easier states are still all volunteers.”

Even with the early successes, nothing is final until state officials review the campaign’s signatures to certify the Kennedy ticket’s addition to the November ballot, and legal challenges from outside groups could still arise. But the Kennedy campaign had already won numerous legal challenges on ballot access this year, including a challenge against Kennedy’s formation of a new third party in Hawaii.

“I think it was a huge hurdle,” Bigtree said. “It’s downhill from here. The media has to stop harping on [ballot access] and recognize that we have a real candidate who’s going to be on the ballot in all 50 states.”

Read the full article here

Leave A Reply