Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says he has qualified for California's presidential ballot

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Tuesday that he has qualified for California’s presidential election ballot, giving his third-party candidacy a long shot chance at collecting 54 electoral votes this fall.

If his spot on the ballot is certified by the California secretary of state, which could come in August, he would represent the American Independent Party. The secretary of state’s office confirmed to The Times that Kennedy’s candidacy had been submitted by the party.

The party has a controversial history dating back to 1968, when it nominated Alabama Gov. George Wallace as its candidate for president. He ran opposing desegregation and championing states’ rights. Kennedy’s father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), was assassinated in Los Angeles the night he won that year’s California presidential primary.

Kennedy says he has qualified for the ballot in California, Hawaii, Michigan and Utah. The political scion has been investing heavily and seeking alternate paths to the ballot since he opted out of running in the Democratic primary late last year. He recently selected California tech lawyer, entrepreneur and political newcomer Nicole Shanahan as his vice presidential running mate.

In a video statement released Tuesday, Kennedy said the AIP was “so impressed by this outpouring of democratic energy and vigor. … So they approached my campaign and offered us their spot on the California ballot. I see this story as a symbol of America’s homecoming .”

He added that he saw Wallace as a “bigot” who “was antithetical to everything my father believed in.”

In recent years, the American Independent Party has been a source of confusion for voters seeking to avoid registering as either a Republican or a Democrat. In California, voters may register as having no party preference, but The Times reported in 2016 that tens of thousands of voters had registered for AIP, many of them in error. Nearly three in four people did not realize they had joined the party, a survey of registered AIP voters conducted for The Times found.

The American Independent Party now exists only in California, but Wallace won 46 electoral votes nationally as its standard bearer in 1968, one of the most successful third-party runs in modern history.

The party now is not segregationist and in recent years officials told the Times that it “is a conservative, constitutionalist party.”

In the past its opposed abortion, and the 2024 March California primary voter guide said that AIP members “are all refugees from the Republican or Democrat parties. We believe the Constitution is the contract America has with itself. Its willful distortion led to the violation of our 10th Amendment guaranteed right to limited government — which inevitably requires oppressive taxation. Its faithful application will lift that burden.”

In a statement Tuesday, AIP state Chairman Victor Moroni said: “We all deserve to find inspiration at the ballot box. Our party is pleased to provide the opportunity for all 22 million voters in California to vote for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for President. Voters crave a real leader who will unite America.”

The move could have an impact on the presidential race in California, but not enough to change the expected outcome.

A March poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies and The Times found President Biden leading former President Trump by 18 percentage points statewide in a head-to-head matchup. That dropped to 12 points when independent and minor party candidates such as Kennedy were included.

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