‘Bobby Is Our Voice’: Five Americans Explain Why They’re Voting for RFK Jr.

‘Bobby Is Our Voice’: Five Americans Explain Why They’re Voting for RFK Jr.
(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Getty Images, Kathryn Gamble for The Epoch Times)
April 21, 2024
April 24, 2024

Michelle Cotterman often gets the same response when she tells people: “I’m voting for Bobby Kennedy.”

Casting a ballot for independent and third-party candidates “is a waste,” they say.

Ms. Cotterman’s support for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. reflects one reason why his independent presidential bid has Democrats and Republicans worried that he could cost President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump valuable votes in a tightly contested election.

“I disagree that voting for Bobby is throwing my vote away. It’s time we stop picking the lesser of two evils and support the candidate we believe in,” Ms. Cotterman told The Epoch Times.

“Just think if every person who wanted to support an independent or third-party candidate actually did when they voted. That would change the political landscape, and that candidate could win. I’m voting for Bobby Kennedy, and I believe that is the right choice.”

Ms. Cotterman backed Mr. Kennedy’s decision last October to leave the Democratic primary and run as an independent.

“He no longer recognized the Democrat Party of old and felt alienated because they left their values behind. I respect how straightforward and honest he is, and the courage he showed [in] making the decision to become an independent,” she said.

A year ago on April 19, 2023, Mr. Kennedy stood before a crowd in Boston and announced his candidacy to challenge President Biden for the 2024 Democratic Party nomination.

Mr. Kennedy cited his intent to unify the country and help restore traditional values to a party that had “lost its way” since his uncle, John F. Kennedy, was president in the early 1960s and his father, Robert F. Kennedy, ran for president in 1968.

At the time, most political pundits and officials from the Democrat and Republican parties dismissed Mr. Kennedy as a fringe candidate. In the early months of his campaign, though, he gained support from conservatives, moderate Republicans, independents, and moderate Democrats.

After encountering multiple hurdles by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and accusing the organization of “rigging the primary” including by not allowing any candidate to compete against President Biden, Mr. Kennedy switched to independent on Oct. 9, 2023.

Since then, he has focused on efforts to get on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, a feat he told The Epoch Times on April 13 that he expects to accomplish by July.

He estimates the effort will cost $15 million to $18 million.

He is officially on the ballot in Utah, and the campaign has said it has collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot in Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and now Iowa.

(Top) Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks to supporters in West Des Moines, Iowa, on April 13, 2024. (Bottom L) People wait for presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to announce his running mate, in Oakland, Calif., on March 26, 2024. (Bottom R) A Robert F. Kennedy Jr. brochure sticks out of a supporter's purse in Oakland, Calif., on March 26, 2024. (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

American Values 2024, a super PAC working to get Mr. Kennedy elected, said it has collected enough valid signatures for the candidate to get on the ballot in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and South Carolina.

After naming Nicole Shanahan as his running mate on March 26, he told a crowd of 1,000 in Oakland, “Millions of Americans are not going to vote at all if they’re not given another choice. They’re simply withdrawing from democracy. Well, Nicole and I are going to give those millions another choice.”

Multiple polls indicate more than half of American voters don’t want to see a rematch between the two presidents, Mr. Kennedy has said.

A Gallup poll released in January indicated that more citizens identify as independent than Democrats or Republicans. Mr. Kennedy believes the current political landscape is ideal for electing an independent president.

“I’m in a better position right now than any independent in American history for the past 100 years since Teddy Roosevelt,” Mr. Kennedy said at a recent campaign stop in Des Moines.

Mr. Kennedy noted that he needs 33 percent to win a state.

While Democrats, Republicans, and political commentators speculate about whether he will detract more from President Trump or President Biden at the polls, Mr. Kennedy has said that he intends to be a “spoiler for both … and win the election.”

Mr. Kennedy’s supporters are wide-ranging. Some are politically disenfranchised and either didn’t vote in the last election or were not going to vote in 2024 until Mr. Kennedy entered the race. Some are drawn to the independent candidate because of his last name and his family’s political dynasty. There are former supporters of President Trump who have become weary of the former president’s social media comments and legal issues.

Others define themselves as independents or Libertarians while others are disgruntled Democrats who have distanced themselves over the party’s move to the far left.

The Epoch Times talked to five voters who offered different reasons why they plan to cast their vote for Mr. Kennedy, and one undecided voter who is open to backing the candidate.

Medical Freedom

Mrs. Cotterman is a registered nurse, a certified natural health professional, and a medical freedom advocate.

Her daughter, at age 2, suffered adverse reactions to a series of vaccines. That spurred Mrs. Cotterman to action and she began helping to educate state legislators about the importance of vaccine choice related to a proposed bill about vaccine requirements at schools. The bill died in committee, but Mrs. Cotterman’s medical freedom advocacy continued.

Protesters gather for a rally the L.A. City Council’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees and contractors in Los Angeles on Nov. 8, 2021. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

It makes for a natural link to Mr. Kennedy, founded Children’s Health Defense, a nonprofit organization that educates about vaccine safety, informed consent, and parental rights, among other initiatives. Mrs. Cotterman met Mr. Kennedy at an autism conference and invited him to address Ohio state legislators about issues such as vaccine choice and informed consent.

She was “thrilled” when she learned Mr. Kennedy was running for president.

“We’ve never had a presidential candidate who was invested in and deeply understood medical freedom, parental rights with vaccine choice, and making informed decisions regarding vaccine and health issues. Bobby is our voice,” she said.

Mrs. Cotterman believes that many medical freedom advocates—at least in Ohio—will vote for Mr. Kennedy, but she acknowledges there are conservatives and progressives who believe in the issue yet won’t support Mr. Kennedy because of the candidate’s other views.

“Those people who are extreme in their views to one side or another will likely not vote for him, but he appeals to people in the middle, which many Americans are,” she said.

Mrs. Cotterman believes that voters who like Mr. Kennedy but doubt if he has enough support to win “may be more likely to vote for Trump.”

Tackling corporate corruption and government agency capture is another of Mr. Kennedy’s stances that appeals to Mrs. Cotterman.

“He is the only candidate talking about these issues, and he has experience as an attorney winning lawsuits against corrupt companies and government agencies. I believe he will do his best to accomplish what he intends to do.”

Mrs. Cotterman said she’s never met Presidents Biden or Trump, “so I don’t how they are from firsthand experience,” but “I know from meeting Bobby that he genuinely cares for people he represents and speaks with on the campaign trail. You can tell by the photographs that he is invested in who he is talking to, and it’s not just a photo opp.”

Open to Kennedy

A self-described “staunch Republican,” Paul Havnen is 73 and lives in Des Moines, Iowa. He supported former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley during the Iowa Republican caucuses. When Ms. Haley dropped out of the race, Mr. Havnen became an undecided voter. On April 13, he attended Mr. Kennedy’s voter rally in West Des Moines “open to what he has to say.”

Mr. Havnen voted for President Trump in 2020 but he is “tired” of the former president’s “bullying” and thinks that “we need some civility.”

On the campaign trail, Mr. Kennedy has lamented a lack of support from Baby Boomers, of which he is a member at age 70. He has noted that most people from his generation “get their news from CNN and MSNBC” and “if I lived in the information bubble, I would have a negative opinion of myself.”

Paul Havnen, a former Nikki Haley supporter who is considering casting his ballot for independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., at a rally for the candidate in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 13, 2024. (Kathryn Gamble for The Epoch Times)

Mainstream media outlets have consistently called Mr. Kennedy a “conspiracy theorist” and “an anti-vaxxer” among other unflattering names. The candidate insists he’s neither and emphasizes his belief in vaccine safety. He has also challenged critics to point out where his stances are conspiracy theories and not corroborated by facts.

Mr. Havnen agrees that Baby Boomers have different news-gathering habits than men and women in their 20s and 30s.

“Younger people get their news differently. They are on social media and watch podcasts. And they seem to be more open to different viewpoints,” he  told The Epoch Times

Mr. Havnen believes that the Biden administration’s refusal to provide Secret Service protection to Mr. Kennedy is “political weaponization against a competing candidate.” He said he wants Mr. Kennedy on the ballot so American voters have another choice.

In November, Mr. Havnen said he'll either cast his vote for Mr. Kennedy or President Trump. The final decision is undetermined.

“I like many of his ideas and thoughts,” he said about Mr. Kennedy.

“I don’t agree with all of them, but I plan to pay more attention to him, listen to his platform, and see him again when he comes back to Iowa.”

Focusing on the Issues

Katie Sokolski-Spear left the Democrat Party after supporting Bernie Sanders’ presidential bids that were thwarted by the DNC. Her distaste for the organization has grown in recent months.

Last month, the DNC announced the creation of a team to counter third-party and independent presidential candidates.

It hired Lis Smith, a veteran Democrat strategist who managed Pete Buttigieg’s unsuccessful 2020 presidential campaign, to spearhead an aggressive communications plan to combat Mr. Kennedy, independent Cornel West, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

President Biden’s supporters and the DNC accuse Mr. Kennedy of being propped up by supporters of President Trump.

Ms. Sokolski-Spear said the DNC’s actions “gives me talking points to tell my friends.”

“No debates. Nobody [is] allowed to run against Biden. No Secret Service protection. All these moves to keep him off the ballot. I will never again support the Democrat Party,” she told The Epoch Times in Oakland in late March.

Joseph and Katie Sokolski-Spear after Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s announcement to select Nicole Shanahan as his running mate on March 26 in Oakland, Calif. (Jeff Louderback/The Epoch Times)

Her husband, Joseph Sokolski-Spear, said he hopes Democrats and Republicans who don’t like their respective candidate learn more about Mr. Kennedy.

“I think a lot of people get stuck in the idea of rooting for their team, like it’s a football team, and not paying attention to the issues. People who don’t pay attention think their party is still fighting for the same issues when clearly they don’t represent what they once did,” he said.

Ms. Sokolski-Spear said Democrats “keep focusing on identity politics and not issues people care about.”

“Like the economy, the corruption, medical freedom, and never-ending wars,” she said.

“They’re not talking about what they’re going to do to lower gas prices. They’re not talking about what they’re going to do to make our lives better.”

Anthony Martinez

Anthony Martinez, 24, attended Mr. Kennedy’s running mate announcement in Oakland with his wife, Adriana, and son, Matthew, who is 18-months-old. They live in nearby Alameda and wanted to hear Mr. Kennedy speak in person.

Mr. Martinez, who is Latino, preferred not to disclose who he voted for in 2020. “I voted for one of them,” he said with a grin.

According to some polls, Mr. Kennedy is drawing widespread support from Latino voters. A mid-February survey by Democrat group Equis Research showed that Mr. Kennedy was backed by one in five Latino voters in a dozen battleground states.

Mr. Martinez didn’t hesitate to express his support for Mr. Kennedy.

“President Biden and President Trump are at the extreme sides of their party. Kennedy is moderate and open to listening. He is not tied to a party’s platform. He bases his positions on what he believes is right for the country, not what a party wants,” he said.

“There are people who are voting for Biden because they don’t like Trump, and there are people who are voting for Trump because they don’t like Biden. Kennedy is a reasonable person, and he appeals to a wide range of people because of that.”

Mr. Martinez believes that, to date, Mr. Kennedy has more recognition and support from younger voters because “he’s mainly on podcasts and different forms of social media and not as much on mainstream media outlets.”

Anthony Martinez, his wife, Briana, and their 18-month-old son, attended the event where Robert F. Kennedy Jr. introduced Nicole Shanahan as his running mate, in Oakland, Calif., on March 26, 2024. (Jeff Louderback/The Epoch Times)

A TV commercial about Mr. Kennedy that aired during the Super Bowl was produced and funded by American Values 2024, a pro-Kennedy super PAC. Anthony Lyons, co-chair of American Values 2024, told The Epoch Times that the ad reached many viewers who weren’t familiar with Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy.

“My parents never even knew he was running until they saw the Super Bowl commercial,” Mr. Martinez said, adding that his father is 62 and his mother is in her late 50s.

A Younger Demographic

Adorned with a Kennedy shirt and hat, 21-year-old Dawson Houston anxiously awaited Mr. Kennedy’s speech in West Des Moines, Iowa, on April 13.

He and his mother drove for 2.5 hours from Nebraska to attend the event.

“I’ve watched his videos, long-form interviews, and podcasts with Joe Rogan and others for around five months. This is the first time I’ve seen him in person,” Mr. Houston told The Epoch Times.

Mr. Houston said he had helped petition in Nebraska to get Mr. Kennedy on the state’s ballot, which the campaign confirmed had been successful.

Though Mr. Kennedy is a distant third behind President Trump and President Biden in multiple national polls, he has led both candidates in favorability rating in several surveys, and he has widespread appeal among younger voters.

Dawson Houston attends a rally for the independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 13, 2024. (Kathryn Gamble for The Epoch Times)
A survey of registered voters conducted by Siena College and The New York Times, released in early November 2023, showed Mr. Kennedy leading President Biden and President Trump among voters under 45 in six battleground states.

Mr. Kennedy registered 34 percent support among voters aged 18 to 29 compared with 30 percent for President Biden and 29 percent for President Trump.

For voters aged 30 to 44, Mr. Kennedy led with 31 percent while President Biden and President Trump each collected 30 percent.

The poll included 3,662 likely voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The margin of sampling error varies among the state polls, from plus or minus 4.4 percentage points to plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

Mr. Houston was too young to vote in the 2020 presidential election but he said he is casting his ballot for Mr. Kennedy this year.

Younger voters—especially men and women in their 20s—like Mr. Kennedy’s promise to create 3 percent mortgages funded by bonds to help first-time home buyers, Mr. Houston said.

He said he’s received varying reactions from friends regarding his support for Mr. Kennedy.

“Some have blocked me from Instagram and Snapchat and others signed the petition to get him on the ballot,” he said with a laugh.

Fighting corporate corruption and what he calls the capture of government agencies by corporations is a key element of Mr. Kennedy’s platform.

So is addressing what Mr. Kennedy calls the “chronic disease epidemic.” That appeals to younger voters, Mr. Houston said, and they often learn in-depth about Mr. Kennedy’s ideas through alternative media sources.

“He’s gaining a lot of momentum through Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. That’s where I found him. Then I started reading his books,” Mr. Houston said. “I can’t remember the last time I watched the local or national news.”