Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Selects Nicole Shanahan as Running Mate in Presidential Bid

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has selected Silicon Valley attorney turned philanthropist Nicole Shanahan as his running mate in an early-announcement move as the independent presidential hopeful seeks to get his name on ballots in all 50 states for his White House bid.

Kennedy, son of the former U.S. attorney general and senator from New York who was assassinated in 1968, announced that Shanahan would join his campaign at a rally in Oakland on Tuesday. The announcement of a running mate decision this early is a strategic move that looks to assuage some of the concerns around his ballot access in half of the country.

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“Nicole has put her interest aside and made the momentous and very, very difficult decision to embark with me on this extraordinary crusade to win back our country,” Kennedy said while introducing Shanahan as his running mate. The White House hopeful, who has a voice condition called spasmodic dysphonia, touted Shanahan’s big tech bona fides and her shared beliefs about the U.S. government’s perceived collusion with private industry.

Shanahan, a native of Oakland, has focused on criminal justice reform and marriage contracts as an attorney and, in 2019, founded the Bia-Echo Foundation, which “aims to accelerate social change,” according to its website. The 38-year-old made headlines earlier this year when she helped fund RFK Jr.’s 2024 Super Bowl ad, reportedly giving his campaign $4 million.

“Listen to Bobby Kennedy in his own words,” she said in a statement. “Take a look at his vision for America. [It] is a vision that I share too, as I spend the next seven months of my life, getting him on each and every ballot in this country.”

Shanahan was married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin from 2018 to 2022, and the pair share a daughter. Their marriage ended amid reports that she had an affair with fellow billionaire Elon Musk (Shanahan and Musk have both denied the allegations).

Nicole Shanahan
Nicole Shanahan

Vice presidential candidates are allowed, per Federal Election Committee rules and regulations, to contribute their own cash to their campaign. As with presidential candidates, there are no limits to the amount a VP candidate can contribute to the campaign.

Like Kennedy, Shanahan has never run for political office. Her addition to the ticket comes at a moment when Kennedy’s campaign faces headwinds getting onto ballots nationwide. Independent candidates must gather petition signatures for ballot inclusion, but in about half of the country’s states, independents must file nominating papers with a named running mate.

Utah is currently the only state where Kennedy’s campaign has officially reached the signature threshold to be included on the ballot in November. His campaign said it had collected all the necessary signatures for inclusion in New Hampshire and Nevada ballots while in Hawaii, then it said Kennedy supporters had collected the required signatures to establish the “We the People” party.

Kennedy’s ballot status in Nevada was called into question this week when a Nevada Secretary of State spokesperson told CNN that a communication “error” had occurred and in fact, state law dictates that candidates must designate a VP pick in their petitions.

Petitioning began in Texas on Tuesday and will begin in more states this week, the campaign said in a press release. There are 23 states where his campaign can begin collecting signatures for ballot access petitions as soon as it names a vice presidential nominee.

Polling from Quinnipiac University in February showed that in a hypothetical matchup, including Kennedy along with independent candidate Cornel West and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, President Joe Biden received 38 percent support, former President Donald Trump received 37 percent support, and Kennedy placed third, receiving 15 percent support. West and Stein each received 3 percent support, the polling showed.

In a recent The Hollywood Reporter cover story with Kennedy’s wife, Cheryl Hines, the Curb Your Enthusiasm actress acknowledged the criticism Kennedy faces in his candidacy, including from his own famous family. “My understanding is that they’re most worried that my running is going to make it more likely for President Trump to win,” he said.

“If anyone is looking at polls, Trump is ahead without Bobby being involved,” Hines noted in the January 2024 story. “Bobby actually has a lot of Republican supporters. He has a lot of independent supporters and a lot of Democratic supporters. My opinion, just seeing what I see, is that Bobby is more likely to take votes from Trump than he is votes from Biden.”

Speculation swirled over Kennedy’s VP pick for weeks as New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former professional wrestler and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, former presidential candidate and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe were all floated as his potential running mate.

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