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Jesse Ventura, Aaron Rodgers are "top" contenders to be RFK Jr.'s running mate

Jesse Ventura, Aaron Rodgers reportedly on RFK Jr.'s list of potential running mates
Jesse Ventura, Aaron Rodgers reportedly on RFK Jr.'s list of potential running mates 00:29

MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is at the top of one presidential hopeful's list for a running mate, alongside NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

CBS News has confirmed that Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running for president on the independent ticket, said that those are his top choices for a running mate. 

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.  

Kennedy says he has been "in touch" with Ventura since a campaign event last month in Arizona, according to the NYT. However, Ventura's son reported to the Minneapolis Star Tribune that, as of yet, his father had "not been officially asked" to join Kennedy's ticket, and would not comment on the NYT report.

Ventura has not commented on the possibility of serving as Kenendy's running mate, but said in an interview four months ago that he would consider an offer to serve on Kennedy's ticket.

Jesse Ventura with Gov. Tim Walz at event legalizing marijuana in Minnesota
Former Governor Jesse Ventura spoke at the bill signing event after Gov. Tim Walz legalized recreational marijuana in Minnesota with the stroke of a pen on Tuesday, May 30, 2023, at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via Getty Images

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Other names that were confirmed to have been on Kennedy's shortlist include previous presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. The New York Times reported all three of them had turned his offer down.

Kennedy is reportedly set to announce his running mate potentially as soon as within the next two weeks.

Ventura's surprise win in 1998 rewrote Minnesota politics

That wasn't the first time Ventura hinted at a possible presidential bid — he also considered a run in 2016.

Ventura was the surprise winner of 1998's gubernatorial race, with Ventura running as a Reform Party candidate against Democrat Skip Humphrey III and Republican Norm Coleman. Ventura was Minnesota's independent governor from 1999 to 2003, serving one term. He was succeeded by Republican Tim Pawlenty.

Among Ventura's notable guests during his tenure as governer — former President Donald Trump, who gave a 2000 speech at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the city where Ventura was once mayor.

Following Trump's election in 2016, many in the media compared his path to the one Ventura forged earlier. Prior to the general election that year, Ventura penned a Time Magazine op-ed on the comparisons, saying "Ronald Reagan today is turning over in his grave," and recommending people vote for Reform Party candidate Gary Johnson.

New York developer and potential Reform Party presidential candidate Donald Trump and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura take questions at a news conference after Trump gave a speech at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Jan. 7, 2000 in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the city where Ventura was once mayor. Craig Lassig/AFP/Getty Images

In 2020, Ventura considered a presidential run, tweeting that he was "testing the waters" and if he were going to run for president, the Green Party would be his first choice. 

"I'm an independent. I'm not a Democrat or a Republican because I know they're not the solution," Ventura said.

Ventura did not end up running due to the timing of when the party would select a nominee. However, he did encourage voters to elect a third-party candidate.

More recently, Ventura has reemerged as a proponent of legalized marijuana initiatives in Minnesota. Recreational marijuana was legalized by the state legislature in the 2023 session. Ventura even announced last summer he plans to start his own marijuana brand and use his own image and likeness to promote the drug.

Rodgers' NFL career dovetailed into controversy

Kennedy is a lawyer and environmental activist who has become a leading figure in the movement that rejects the scientific consensus around vaccines. and a vocal critic of the public health establishment. Rodgers has also been involved in controversies surrounding vaccination, refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine after the then-Green Bay Packers player misled the public by saying he was "immunized" against the virus.

Rodgers has also recently made a number of comments about comedian Jimmy Kimmel and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein that some suggest may have led former NFL punter Pat McAfee to remove him from his popular ESPN show.

"We live in a country that has freedom of speech, but you're going to have to deal with consequences of your freedom of speech," McAfee said.

Epstein died in jail facing charges related to alleged sex trafficking and conspiracy, and Rodgers' comments were made amid heightened media attention over the potential release of Epstein's partial client list.

Rodgers spent the bulk of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers beginnning in 2005, when he was drafted 24th overall. Throughout his career, he brought the team plenty of success stories, including a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, a game that also saw Rodgers win the MVP Award. He was traded to the New York Jets last year, and was knocked out with an Achilles tendon injury just four plays into his debut for the team.

Kennedy has moved from Democrat to independent

Kennedy, a scion of one of the nation's most prominent political families, has focused on getting access to the ballot, an expensive and time-consuming process that he has said will require him to collect more than a million signatures in a state-by-state effort.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Holds A Rally In Phoenix, Arizona As He Campaigns For President
Independent Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during a campaign rally at Legends Event Center on December 20, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. Rebecca Noble / Getty Images

Many states require independent candidates to name a running mate before they can seek access to the ballot, a factor driving the early push for Kennedy to make a pick. Major party candidates generally don't pick vice presidential nominees until closer to their summer conventions.

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After originally running as a Democrat, he refocused his efforts around an independent campaign last year, spooking loyalists of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, who worry he'll pick up supporters who would otherwise back one of the major party candidates.

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