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Chris Kennedy is Democratic gubernatorial flavor of the day

Chris Kennedy left the delegate breakfast in a hurry and did not speak to reporters afterward. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

PHILADELPHIA — Another day, another potential gubernatorial candidate for Illinois Democrats.

Chris Kennedy delivered an attention-getting speech before Illinois delegates and elected officials on Tuesday in which he praised the ideals of the Democratic Party, challenged those who are tarnishing the “American Dream,” and chided Gov. Bruce Rauner for what he called “misdirection” in his Turnaround Agenda.

“Chaos, uncertainty and the unknown are the enemies of our economy and they are brought at our doorstep by our current governor and his political allies,” said Kennedy, who asked party officials to speak before the delegation.

Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, is mulling a run for Illinois governor to challenge Rauner in the 2018 election. He has met with key Democrats, as well as union leaders, but has not officially announced he’s running. This isn’t the first time that Kennedy, who used to run the Merchandise Mart, has contemplated running for office. He’s just never pulled the trigger.

“The governor is turning a government budget problem into a statewide economic crisis. The suffering and chaos that he has unleashed on the people needs to end,” Kennedy said.

He said he’d challenge Rauner’s claims that businesses are leaving Illinois and challenged his insistence on his desired reforms.

Kennedy said his experience in luring firms to the Merchandise Mart proves that “I know what it takes to get more companies to move to Illinois. … And to get them to expand once they’ve arrive.”

And it didn’t take any items from Rauner’s “turnaround agenda” to do it, he added.

“Not one of the 5,000 or so tenants and exhibitors that I deal with, businesses that employ people and pay taxes, not one ever asked me about the prevailing wage, or right to work, or redistricting, or tort reform,” Kennedy said to applause.

Chris Kennedy spoke to the Illinois delegates Tuesday morning. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times
Chris Kennedy spoke to the Illinois delegates Tuesday morning. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

Kennedy, who made his career in Chicago, said he believes in the “greatness of our major city.” In deep contrast, Rauner, on a statewide tour during the budget impasse, pitted downstate Illinois and other communities against Chicago.

“For more than 200 years, the American dream has worked for us in the past and the American Dream will work for us again, in the future,” Kennedy said.

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Reporters cornered Kennedy after the breakfast to ask if he’s ready to run. He wouldn’t bite.

“I said what I was going to say inside today and the rest of the convention I’m going to spend listening and learning from other people,” Kennedy said.

Illinois House Speaker and Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman Mike Madigan on Tuesday said he’s also met with Kennedy about the governor’s race.

“My understanding is that he’s spending time moving around the state, contemplating a possible candidacy for governor,” Madigan said.

“I told him he’d make a very good candidate for governor.”

Madigan on Monday called Sen. Dick Durbin a “uniquely qualified candidate” for governor in admitting the two also had talked about a run for that office.

Durbin on Monday did not slam the door and nail it shut while talking to reporters at the Marriott about any option concerning his future. Madigan’s revelation that the two had discussed the governor’s race put on the table the question of Durbin running, though Durbin’s interest in Springfield is far from certain.

Durbin’s first priority is to win re-election as his party’s Senate whip.