Two men close to Kanye West, neither with political experience to speak of, appeared to be behind the newly declared candidate’s unsuccessful effort to get on the ballot in South Carolina.
According to two local South Carolina political operatives who’ve met with them, the key figures were Stephen Blake Kanicka, a Grammy-nominated composer of Christian music who was the music supervisor for the anti-abortion movie Unplanned, and John Boyd, who has five children who are the members of Infinity’s Song, a music group favored by West. Boyd, who has been described as West’s spiritual adviser, was standing behind West throughout his political rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Sunday.
The rapper, who has filed with the Federal Election Commission and is on the ballot as a presidential candidate in Oklahoma, launched a last-ditch effort to get on the ballot in South Carolina over the weekend. To qualify, West needed to collect 10,000 valid signatures by noon on Monday. But the rapper’s campaign did not submit any to the South Carolina Board of Elections.
Chris Whitmire, a spokesman for the South Carolina Board of Elections, told Intelligencer, “the petition deadline has passed for the 2020 general election and the state election commission did not receive a petition from Kanye West. There are no exceptions to the deadline.”
West did provisionally qualify for the ballot later Monday in Illinois, which requires a much lower threshold of 2,500 signatures.
One of the South Carolina political operatives who spoke with Intelligencer is C.J. Westfall, who most recently worked on an unsuccessful Republican congressional campaign. Westfall connected with the Kanye campaign on Saturday after going to one of the locations where signatures were being gathered to get West on the ballot. He says the woman who was collecting signatures on the rapper’s behalf connected him with Kanicka.
Westfall said that by touting both his political experience and his Kanye fandom (Westfall has a Dropout Bear tattoo), as well as providing the campaign with an email list of local press so that they could share information about their signature-gathering efforts, he was able to get a meeting with both Kanicka and Boyd. Westfall described Boyd as “the decision-maker.” TMZ reported in 2019 that the rapper is “super close” to Boyd and draws “spiritual support” from him.
Westfall said that he was told that “Kanye refused to meet with Black Lives Matter and wanted to protect the family unit.” Westfall’s friend and fellow local political operative Shakem Akhet participated in the meeting as well via speakerphone. Afterward, both were invited to the political rally on Sunday as VIPs.
However, that’s where it all started to go sideways. Westfall said that he got an angry email from Kanicka’s wife for passing the contact info for someone at a local hip-hop station and was told not to text or contact Kanicka. Westfall said that Kanicka later prevented him from joining the VIP group to briefly meet West backstage after the rally and had the Kanye fan removed by security.
Akhet also didn’t meet West backstage after the event. He was too embarrassed to do so. Although Akhet had told Intelligencer before the event that he thought West was “definitely real serious” based on his conversations with the campaign, he changed his mind after seeing West onstage. “He’s not serious,” said Akhet after watching what he described as “an incoherent rant.” Akhet said that Boyd approached him after the event to encourage him to meet the rapper to no avail: “He said, ‘Hey man you coming backstage?’ I said no. He knew I was upset.”
For Westfall, the experience left him “deeply brokenhearted.” A devoted fan of the rapper, he saw West as “a mentally ill man who needs his mother” and worried that those around him were taking advantage of him. “I hope Kanye sees your writing and knows his team is full of yes-men,” he said.
In a brief phone conversation, Kanicka told Intelligencer of the campaign and the event in North Charleston: “It’s been a moment.” In response to a text message following up on his role in the campaign, Kanicka said, “I’ve worked with Kanye West in a variety of other areas (like music), but I am not contracted to be on the campaign. No title. No position. Always enthusiastic about helping Kanye though.”
West’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
This post has been updated to include the news of West filing in Illinois.