Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to announce vice presidential running mate March 26 in California

FILE - Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., speaks during a campaign event at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in Miami. Kennedy is having conversations with vice presidential candidates as he gets closer to announcing his runningmate for his independent presidential bid. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
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By JONATHAN J. COOPER

Associated Press

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. plans to announce a running mate for his independent presidential campaign on March 26 in Oakland, California, his campaign said Tuesday.

The campaign did not say whom Kennedy will pick, but he told The New York Times this week that NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura are among the frontrunners.

Kennedy is making an unusually early announcement because of ballot access rules in many states that require independent candidates to name their vice presidential nominees before they can begin the process. Ballot access for independent candidates is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, with rules varying vastly across states.

Kennedy’s father was attorney general for the candidate’s uncle, President John F. Kennedy. He began his presidential campaign as a primary challenge to Democratic President Joe Biden but later changed gears to run as an independent. His bid for the presidency, along with his embrace of conspiracy theories and views on vaccines that aren’t supported by scientific consensus, have angered many of his famous relatives.

Kennedy is a lawyer and environmental activist who has found a loyal following among people who believe vaccines are harmful. He’s energized supporters alienated from the political system and distrustful of the government, corporations and media.

Candidates from outside the Republican and Democratic parties rarely make a splash, if they can make the ballot to begin with. But third-party candidates don’t usually carry a famous last name like Kennedy’s, or his existing network of supporters.

Rodgers, the longtime Green Bay Packers quarterback who now plays for the New York Jets, shares Kennedy’s distrust of vaccine mandates and, like Kennedy, is a fixture on anti-establishment podcasts. Ventura, a former professional wrestler, shocked observers when he won the race for Minnesota governor as an independent candidate in 1998.