Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says thank you to supporters after speaking at a campaign event Wednesday at Ocean Gateway in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made his pitch to voters during a campaign stop in Portland Wednesday.

Kennedy, the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, is running as an independent in a 2024 race that is likely to feature a rematch of Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump.

He spoke to a crowd of around 700 people at the Ocean Gateway, touching on the housing crisis, inflation and foreign policy. He also took questions from voters, posed for selfies and asked for help gathering the signatures needed to get on the ballot in Maine.

Supporters of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. laugh after a joke during a campaign event Wednesday in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

He talked about how the housing crisis is driving homelessness, and said it’s only a matter of time before communities around the country are experiencing problems related to lack of housing and homelessness.

“Food is going up, child care is going up, health care is going up,” Kennedy said. “Nothing is going up like housing. Housing is a different dimension.”

“Everyone has this feeling that the whole system is fixed against them, and the reason is because it is. It’s rigged,” he said as the crowd cheered.


Kennedy is a longtime Democrat who announced in October that he would be running instead as an independent in the presidential race. A recent poll by Quinnipiac University found he could pull as much as 22% of the vote in a three-way race with Trump and Biden.

A New York Times and Sienna College poll released this week found that in a three-way race Kennedy would garner 24% of the vote, compared to 35% for Trump and 33% for Biden, in six battleground states.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. supporters line up to get a photo with him during a campaign event Wednesday at Ocean Gateway. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

That poll also found Kennedy leading Biden and Trump among voters under age 45 in those six states.

In an interview before Wednesday’s campaign event, Kennedy said he sees young people as some of his key supporters. “A lot of my voters are people who just have not voted … and they would not vote given the other two choices,” he said. “I think the choices people are getting right now aren’t choices that are exciting.”

He said he is particularly concerned about young people being unable to afford homes, and said he wants to put in place programs to help them buy homes at affordable rates.

“Every other generation was told if you work hard and live by the rules, you can finance a home,” Kennedy said. “You can put money aside for retirement and raise a family with one job. There’s no one in my kids’ generation who thinks that applies to them.”


Robert F. Kennedy Jr. takes photos with supporters Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


Kennedy has drawn attention in the past for statements falsely linking vaccines to various medical conditions. He said Wednesday he “is not anti-vax and never have been.”

“I think vaccines should be tested for safety and efficacy the same as every other medicine,” he said.

Kate York, of Falmouth, was among dozens who stood in line for a selfie with Kennedy after Wednesday’s event. “He’s an inspiration to me. I love his vaccine advocacy,” York said.

“He supports parental choice, informed consent,” she said.

Erin Cotton, of Newburyport, Mass. listens to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“When I hear him speak, it’s very organic and true,” said Aaron Cloutier, who also attended Wednesday’s event. “I love the message of unifying people and bringing us together and checking down on big industry.”

Cloutier, an independent voter from South Portland, said he couldn’t see himself voting for either Trump or Biden.

“I think what we’re seeing is you can either vote for the establishment, which would be Biden, or you can vote for the mafia,” Cloutier said. “I don’t want to vote for either one of them. It’s big money on one side and someone groomed for the position on the other side.”

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