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RFK Jr. claims Iowa ballot access during ‘Iowa Assembly’ event

Brielle Tuttle
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during his Iowa Assembly at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK Jr.), the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, claimed to have gained access to the Iowa ballot after holding a convention in West Des Moines Saturday and gathering signatures needed for access.

“We know what President Trump and President Biden are going to do if they win this election,” Kennedy said. “They’re gonna do exactly what they did before. We’ve already seen it. We know what the future is if we do that.”

We the People party convention

Currently, Iowa has three political parties, which are determined by prior election results: the Democratic party, Republican party and Libertarian party. Kennedy initially launched his 2024 campaign under the Democratic party, but announced in October that he would run as an independent and must petition for ballot access in each state.

Under Iowa Code 44.1, a candidate not a part of a political party in Iowa seeking to be on the ballot in a statewide race can hold a convention with more than 500 eligible voters from 25 counties to gain ballot access.

Attendees of the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Iowa Assembly sign the petition to have Kennedy’s name on the ballot at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines on Saturday, April 13, 2024. (Brielle Tuttle)

The Kennedy campaign had a presiding officer and convention chair lead attendees in participating in the Iowa convention for the We the People party, which Kennedy formed in January.

“I’m now going to open the floor for nomination for the office of president of the United States of America. Do I have a motion to nominate?” David Owen, RFK Jr. campaign ballot access field organizer and Saturday’s presiding officer, asked.

The convention conducted the business of nominating a presidential and vice presidential candidate. The nomination process was seemingly unanimous for Kennedy and Nicole Shanahan, his running mate. One attendee attempted to nominate former President Donald Trump for vice president but they were not recognized by the presiding officer.

The campaign announced during the event that they had gathered 686 signatures from more than 35 counties. Those numbers must be certified by state officials for formal ballot access.

According to the RFK Jr. campaign, they have completed the petitioning process in seven states and have ongoing ballot access initiatives in every state where the petitioning period has begun.

Kennedy’s independent pitch

Following the nominating convention, Kennedy spoke to the crowd about how he would differentiate his policies from the two major political parties including by ending “forever wars” and reducing the deficit.

Kennedy was also critical of the media and the federal government for lying.

“Do you think that President Biden and President Trump have either any interest or capacity to restore the ability of the government to start telling the truth to the American people?” Kennedy asked while members of the crowd responded with “No.” “I don’t think so either because they’re part of this system where they deny that the government’s even lied to us.”

Kennedy added that the media now serves to reinforce “government propaganda” and said he would sign an executive order on his first day in office to remove any government official who lies.

“Don’t even believe me, you shouldn’t,” Kennedy said. “We want a democracy in this country. And the job of the press in the democracy is to constantly question, to constantly disbelieve, examine and parse through every statement by every public official to see when they’re telling lies.”

The independent was also critical of polling methods by the New York Times, which received boos from the audience upon mention of the newspaper. Kennedy said his support in their polls decreased after they changed the methodology by excluding third-party candidates from certain questions.

“That’s like if they call up people and said, ‘Do you prefer the color blue or the color red?’ Most people would choose from those categories and a certain number of people are gonna say, ‘Wait a minute, I like green,’” Kennedy said.

Kennedy did not discuss his prior claims that vaccines cause autism and that the COVID-19 vaccine was the “deadliest vaccine ever made” but did discuss other public health issues including food ingredients that he said cause chronic illnesses.

“We now have 1,000 ingredients in our processed foods in this country that are illegal in Europe,” Kennedy said. “Is it any wonder that we have a chronic disease epidemic in this country? Who owns all of those processed food companies, BlackRock. And who is one of the biggest donors to both the Republican and Democratic [parties]?”

“Iowa is winnable”

During media availability after the event, Kennedy said he believed he could win Iowa and the general election.

“Recent polls have shown me at 26% in Arizona [and] 27% in Michigan,” Kennedy said. “All I have to do is take two and a half points from each of the candidates in the next six months, and I don’t think either of these candidates are getting more popular.”

Kennedy also said that he is statistically performing well in every demographic except “boomers” and that he is “making a big effort” among that group.

ISU student on RFK Jr.

Sam Jackson, a sophomore in political science, said that after hearing Kennedy speak, he is “99% of the way there” to committing to voting for him in November.

“There’s such a divide from being able to see down the middle,” Jackson said. “You know, it’s a rare thing and I think it was really powerful to see that. I don’t know, when I think about his odds, you know, as an independent, it’s going to be kind of rough.”

Jackson, a Minnesota resident, was unable to participate in the Iowa nominating process but said it was “really cool.”

“I don’t really get a chance to [participate] because I live out in the middle of nowhere in Minnesota,” Jackson said. “So being able to come down here and see that just a 35, 45-minute drive down from Ames and it’s perfect, it was really powerful.”

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