Businessman Chris Kennedy, a member of the Kennedy family political dynasty, officially announced his campaign for governor of Illinois in 2018 on Wednesday. After months of speculation, the Democratic candidate will formally file paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections on Wednesday afternoon, according to a statement from campaign officials.
Kennedy, son of former U.S. senator Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former president John F. Kennedy, will run against Illinois' current Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and said that he will work to create more jobs and restore the economy. "Today, I am announcing my run for Governor because I love Illinois, but we have never been in worse shape," Kennedy said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. "We don't need incremental improvement – we need fundamental change in state government."
Mark Bergman, Kennedy's spokesman, said the 53-year-old had previously considered a U.S. Senate run in 2009 but concluded it was not the right time. "This time he felt like he was called to serve because Illinois has never been in worse shape under Governor Rauner and has a unique set of skills … to turn this state around," Bergman said. A representative from Rauner's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since taking office in 2015, Rauner has feuded with the Democratic-led state legislature, leaving the nation's fifth most-populated state without a full-year operating budget. No other state has gone 19 months, as Illinois has, without passing a budget. "I believe that we can restore the future of this state," Kennedy said in a video statement released on Wednesday. "I'm running for governor because this state is headed in the wrong direction."
Kennedy, a Chicago resident, was the former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and now leads Top Box Foods, a nonprofit organization he co-founded with his wife that provides affordable, healthy foods to Chicago neighborhoods. He also managed the Merchandise Mart, a notable wholesale design center, and currently oversees Wolf Point, a real estate development project in downtown Chicago.
Kennedy's father, Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1968 while serving as a U.S. senator. His uncle, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963 in Dallas during his first term as president.