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Brown: Chris Kennedy outspoken on media — tight-lipped on plans

Chris Kennedy. Photo by Lynn Sweet

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PHILADELPHIA — Something easy to forget about the Democratic National Convention is that — for all the important business of nominating a presidential candidate — in the end it’s just another convention where delegates blow off meetings to go golfing, stay up all night playing poker and occasionally make fools of themselves in the hotel bar.

For a reporter, it can also mean having easy access to political figures who normally go weeks or months without being available to answer questions.

So it was that, barely an hour after a strange scene in which he fled reporters hoping to ask him about his political aspirations, Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy wandered through the hotel lobby directly into the path of my tape recorder.


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To my surprise, considering the earlier encounter in which he became angry when trapped in an elevator with cameras and microphones, Kennedy stopped, and we had a nice discussion, not that he told me much.

He didn’t give a direct answer about whether he is exploring a run for governor in 2018, although he spoke knowledgeably and passionately about the issues facing Illinois with an emphasis on higher education.

He sounded very much like someone preparing a campaign, which has been the word in political circles, the caveat being he has been practicing this same dance since the turn of the century in a futile courtship without ever stepping onto the dance floor.

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Kennedy, 53, didn’t directly say whether he would step aside if U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin entered the race, although I’m sure he would.

What I found most interesting, I suppose, was his explanation of why he tried to avoid reporters after his speech, a lofty Kennedy-esque presentation that invoked his father, Robert, and FDR, before lighting into Gov. Bruce Rauner.

His mere presence on the podium at the Illinois delegation’s breakfast sent a message he wants to be in the political discussion, and the speech itself added to the impression.

So why the getaway?

Kennedy said he thought his message to the delegation spoke for itself and that he refuses to participate in media scrums that are the regular stuff of politics and public office.

“People turn into animals in that environment, and they are asking ridiculous questions, acting like bullies. … It’s a b——- way to conduct each other’s business,” he said.

Kennedy said he would rather do one-on-one interviews with every reporter than one hallway press conference.

“If you don’t like that, I mean, sorry,” he said.

That might be a reason not to run.

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