RFK Jr. names wealthy lawyer as running mate for US presidential bid

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said he wanted a running mate who shared his suspicion of Big Tech (Emily Elconin)
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said he wanted a running mate who shared his suspicion of Big Tech (Emily Elconin)
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Independent US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced wealthy Silicon Valley lawyer and political newcomer Nicole Shanahan as his running mate Tuesday, as he pursues an anti-establishment campaign seen as an increasing threat to Democrat Joe Biden.

The nephew of John F. Kennedy and prominent vaccine skeptic is more popular than any independent candidate since Ross Perot in 1992, with average support of around 12 percent nationwide.

Democrats fear that nostalgia for their party's iconic political dynasty could make a significant dent in Biden's vote count as the president and his Republican predecessor Donald Trump vie for a second term in November.

A tech entrepreneur and Democratic donor with no political experience, Shanahan was on a shortlist that included New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura and TV host Mike Rowe.

Kennedy, 70, told around 500 supporters in Oakland, California he wanted a vice president who would "speak for millennials and Gen Z -- someone who cares about healing our children, protecting our environment, restoring our soils, and getting the chemicals out of our food, and who understands how technology will either enslave us or give us a path back to freedom and prosperity."

Shanahan, 38, founded a tech law firm in 2013 that uses AI to analyze patent portfolios.

She told The New York Times she helped make an attention-grabbing Super Bowl ad supporting Kennedy in February, and gave $4 million to a political group last month to air it.

The philanthropist gave a deeply personal speech about a difficult childhood with a father who she said was "plagued by substance abuse" and struggled to keep a job.

- 'Purpose of privilege' -

"As you probably know, I became very wealthy later on in life, but my roots in Oakland taught me many things I've never forgotten -- that the purpose of wealth is to help those in need," she said.

"That's what it's for. And I want to bring that back to politics too. That is the purpose of privilege."

Shanahan was married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin for four years from 2018 and denied "senseless and cruel" media reports of an affair with tech billionaire Elon Musk that she blamed for the breakdown of her marriage.

She founded the Bia-Echo Foundation, which promotes "reproductive longevity and equality, criminal justice reform and a healthy and livable planet."

Shanahan, who has an autistic daughter, told The New York Times in February that concerns about children's health, including vaccines, had motivated her to support Kennedy.

She said she was "not an anti-vaxxer" but added: "I do think that the increase of vaccine-related injuries is very alarming, and I do think we need to understand the screening mechanisms."

Kennedy was the head of anti-vaccine organization Children's Health Defense, before stepping back to run for president.

He has leaned heavily on the iconic status of his uncle -- and his father, JFK's younger brother and attorney general Robert F. Kennedy -- on the campaign trail and spoke at length about his father's work targeting poverty.

But four of his siblings have condemned his campaign, saying that he "does not share the same values, vision or judgment" as their father.

Trump's victory margin over Hillary Clinton in several key swing states in 2016 was smaller than third party candidate Jill Stein's vote total.

The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee have allocated staff and consultants specifically for the mission of attacking Kennedy.

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