A “big family” is the secret to a successful political campaign, Rose Kennedy once said.
And Chris Kennedy — a businessman and heir to the Kennedy political dynasty — is taking his grandmother’s words to heart as he faces J.B. Pritzker, an unlimited self-funder, and four other Democratic challengers in the March gubernatorial primary.
With about $1.6 million in his campaign war chest, Kennedy plans to use an army of family members to help bolster his campaign.
“For many people who are running a national fundraising operation, they all hire consultants in multiple cities. Instead, I’m able to rely on my family members,” Kennedy told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Kennedy, one of former U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s 11 children, says his four children are all volunteering for the campaign in varying roles that will become more significant in the new year. A new organizational chart of the campaign shows Chris Kennedy Jr., 25, at the helm of the organization. But campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Evans said Kennedy Jr. is there to “support” multiple departments, including finance and communications. Kennedy took time off from a full-time management consulting job to help the campaign ahead of the primary March 20.
Kate Kennedy, 26, has been active in the campaign for months, helping with events and “organizational issues,” according to her father. Sarah Kennedy, 23, is a teacher in Englewood but serves as a surrogate for events on the weekends. And Clare Kennedy, 19, is planning to spend a six-week college break to help bolster her dad’s campaign.
Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy — the 28-year-old daughter of Robert Kennedy Jr. — is helping out with the campaign’s communications and digital teams. She previously ran digital communications for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights advocacy organization. And the Democratic candidate says there’s more family on the way.
“Almost all of my brothers and sisters and cousins will be coming in during the next three months, and that’s really great. They’re able to cover some of the parts of the state where we have two events simultaneously and that’s super helpful,” Chris Kennedy said. “Chris, in particular, he’s able to spend the most time on the campaign and it’s really helpful to have somebody who can call me at 11 o’clock at night or 6 in the morning and say, ‘Hey you need look at these two or three things,’ or ‘be prepared’ or ‘stick to your call time’ in a way that is more difficult for someone, let’s say in a classic sense, works for me.”
Having family on the team “gives them an understanding of the family business, in a sense,” he said.
Are they brutally honest? “They’re very honest. Very candid. And ambitious too. They push hard,” Chris Kennedy said.
Last year, Ethel Kennedy — the family matriarch and human rights activist — hosted a fundraiser with her daughters Kerry and Kathleen in Chicago. The fundraiser served as a link to the Kennedy family’s political and social past — and one that might pique the interest of voters in the state.
Democratic candidate State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, is also banking on some family support, although his children — at 7 and 9 — are too young to serve a role in the campaign. A campaign staffer last week tweeted a photo of Biss’ 74-year-old father, Paul, making phone calls for the campaign.
There are no family members working for Pritzker’s campaign. But Pritzker’s wife and children have appeared at various campaign events throughout the state.
“From holding signs at L stops the day JB launched his campaign to riding along for our statewide bus tour or joining big announcements like the endorsements of Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, JB’s wife MK, along with their kids Donny and Teddi, love hitting the campaign trail whenever they can,” spokeswoman Galia Slayen said.
Madison County Schools Supt. Bob Daiber, Burr Ridge doctor Robert Marshall and former CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman round out the list of candidates for the March 20 primary. Terry Getz, a corrections officer, is expected to be removed from the ballot by the State Board of Elections because he didn’t have a running mate or meet the signature requirement.