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Cornel West announces BLM activist, professor Melina Abdullah as VP pick

Independent presidential candidate Cornel West on Wednesday announced his running mate, Melina Abdullah, a Pan-African studies professor and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, as he seeks to gain ballot access in more states ahead of the November general election.

West, 70, and Abdullah, 51, appeared together on “The Tavis Smiley Show,” a Black radio talk show, previewing their long-shot ticket as a more liberal alternative to the other third-party ticket options.

“She’s one of the great freedom fighters of a generation, one of the great love warriors of a generation,” West told Smiley. “She’s a lover of people.”

West, a prominent activist and author, initially launched his campaign last June, seeking the Green Party’s nomination, before he opted to become an independent candidate.

His announcement comes as he aims to qualify for the ballot in 26 states and D.C., which require an independent presidential candidate petitioning for ballot access to submit the name of their running mate, according to Ballot Access News.

West’s campaign says he has met requirements to be on the ballot in Alaska, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah, though those states’ election officials have not yet confirmed that.

West, who has refused PAC support and corporate donations, has struggled with raising money. His campaign spent more than it raised in February, according to federal campaign finance reports, with $26,048 cash on hand and $12,938 in debt. The U.S. Office of Government Ethics also refused to sign off on West’s financial disclosure, a requirement West would need to meet to hold office.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has criticized West’s candidacy and other third-party candidates who could play the spoiler for President Biden’s campaign in key swing states.

“Despite Cornel West announcing a running mate, our view remains the same: only two candidates have a path to 270 electoral votes, President Biden and Donald Trump,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Matt Corridoni said in a statement ahead of the announcement. “The stakes are high and we know this is going to be a close election — that’s why a vote for any third party candidate is a vote for Donald Trump.”

Abdullah, who is Black and Muslim, previously supported West’s 2024 bid and said Wednesday that she did not expect to be offered the vice president slot last week. Neither candidate has previously held elected office.

“I’ve been following him and had been really enthusiastic about his candidacy and just was excited to be able to share space with him, to be inspired by him, to sit in his wisdom, and was not expecting the phone call that I got last week at all,” Abdullah said.

In several national polls, West has garnered about 1 or 2 percent of voters, around the same as third-party candidate Jill Stein of the Green Party. One percent of voters said they would choose West, compared with 11 percent for independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 41 percent for Republican candidate Trump and 43 percent for Democratic candidate Biden, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted March 25 to 28.

The announcement comes about two weeks after Kennedy named his running mate, tech lawyer and megadonor Nicole Shanahan. After Shanahan’s announcement, the Kennedy campaign said it had launched new efforts to get on more states’ ballots after fulfilling the requirement to name a running mate.

Both Shanahan and Abdullah, women of color in California, have previously supported Democratic candidates before their independent runs.

But Abdullah has donated far smaller amounts of money than Shanahan, who has given tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates. Abdullah previously gave $360 in 2008 to support then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama; $300 in 2012 to Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.); and $300 in 2019 to presidential candidate Julián Castro’s super PAC, according to federal campaign finance filings.

Abdullah, a professor in the department of Pan-African studies at California State University at Los Angeles for more than 20 years, was among the original group of organizers who convened to form Black Lives Matter and has led the Los Angeles chapter. Abdullah previously clashed with the group’s national leadership, suing them over funds she believed should have gone to local chapters. The judge dismissed the case.

Her activism has become a target of threats, including several swatting attempts at her home. She sued the Los Angeles Police Department after she said police forced her at gunpoint to step out of her home while her children hid inside, roughly three months after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. She is also suing the university after she was forcibly removed by police from a mayoral debate on campus.

West has also repeatedly criticized Biden’s handling of the Israel-Gaza war, calling on the administration to redirect spending on military aid for Israel toward helping Americans in poverty. Abdullah has previously said Black people in America support Palestinians.

“We understand that the liberation of Black people in the United States is tied to the liberation of Black people all over the world, and tied to the liberation of oppressed people all over the world,” Abdullah told The Washington Post in 2021. “Being in solidarity with the Palestinian people is something that’s been part of our work as Black Lives Matter for almost as long as we’ve been an organization.”

Earlier this year, Abdullah faced some criticism over her social media posts on X, formerly Twitter, writing on the day of the Super Bowl that she feels “it’s slightly racist to be a Taylor Swift fan.” She also critiqued Beyoncé’s use of the American flag in a recent album cover, saying the flag “symbolizes the genocide of Indigenous people, the theft of their land, the enslavement, dehumanization, and exploitation of Black people, and settler colonialism.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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