SALT LAKE CITY — Rapper Kanye West will be a presidential candidate on the Utah ballot in November after collecting the necessary voter signatures and filing as an unaffiliated candidate with the state just before Monday’s deadline.
West, who made a surprise announcement on July 4 that he was running for president, joins Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Joe Biden and five others on the Utah ballot — Don Blankenship, Constitution Party; Jo Jorgensen, Libertarian Party; and unaffiliated candidates Brock Pierce, Joe McHugh and Gloria La Riva.
To run as an unaffiliated presidential candidate in Utah, a person must gather 1,000 voter signatures in the state and pay a $500 filing fee. The paperwork for West and his running mate, Michelle Tidball, a self-described “biblical life coach” who, like West, lives on a ranch in Cody, Wyoming, was filed by Salt Lake lawyer Robert Harrington.
The deadline for filing as an unaffiliated candidate in the state was 5 p.m. Monday. West, who had been seen as a strong supporter of Trump before jumping into the race, has already failed to meet filing requirements or missed deadlines in a number of other states but has made the ballot in a few, including Ohio and now Utah.
A quarter of the respondents in a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll said they hadn’t heard about West’s candidacy, and two-thirds said they viewed the celebrity unfavorably. Just 2% said they would vote for West, compared to 40% for Trump and 49% for Biden.
Some have dismissed his candidacy as a publicity stunt. West has held only a single campaign event, in South Carolina last month, where some of his personal comments sparked concern about his continued mental health issues by his wife, Kim Kardashian.
According to Politico, West’s Republican campaign strategists believe he can attract Black votes away from Biden. Others don’t see one of the Democratic Party’s most loyal base of voters moving away from the party’s presumptive nominee and expect West will end up hurting Trump more.
Four years ago, conservative independent candidate Evan McMullin ended up with 21.5% of the vote in Utah, his best performance nationally. Still, he trailed Democrat Hillary Clinton, who had 27.5% of the vote, and Trump, who won Utah with 45.5% of the vote, his lowest margin of victory of any state he won.
While Utahns may be willing to consider presidential alternatives, West’s celebrity alone isn’t likely to be enough to draw many voters, said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. He said many Utahns felt a connection to McMulllin, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Kanye West is not the same as one of those typical third-party candidates who may capture the vote against the other candidates,” Perry said. “I think he will get some small segment of the Utah population that may like the novelty of this opportunity, but I do not think it will impact this race to any substantial degree.”
The leaders of Utah’s Republican and Democratic parties also said they don’t expect to see much support for West.
“I just don’t see him playing a significant role in the election,” Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant said, adding he hopes voters don’t even register that West is running given what’s at stake in November with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It seems like at every turn, Donald Trump wants to distract the public from what’s really going on. I think this is the last thing that the American public needs, another distraction,” Merchant said. “This is a race where it’s clear that (West) can’t win. He can’t get on most of the ballots. So I’m not 100% sure what the motivation is.”
Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown joked that West’s campaign could get a response from Taylor Swift. The pop star, who has been involved in a long-standing feud with West, has criticized Trump on Twitter, most recently for his “calculated dismantling” of the U.S. Postal Service and its effect on voting.
“We welcome Kanye into the race, knowing that Utahns will nonetheless elect Donald Trump this November,” Brown said. “We are also waiting for confirmation of rumors swirling that Taylor Swift is unhappy with Kanye’s late entry, and believes that his candidacy may help the president’s reelection efforts.”
West attracted thousands of fans to The Gateway in Salt Lake City in October 2019 for a “Sunday Service” where he told worshippers that the Republican Party of Lincoln freed enslaved people and said he supports President Donald Trump.
“I ain’t never make a decision based only on my color,” West said at the service. “That’s a form of slavery — mental slavery. I ain’t drink from the white person fountain. ... I ain’t playing with them. All these mind controllers, the media, all of these mind controllers. I find that wherever Christ is where I’ve got my mind at. We find that the love of Christ is where I’ve got my mind back.”