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RFK's Son Chris Kennedy Says He's Running For Illinois Governor

By Heather Cherone | February 8, 2017 10:46am | Updated on February 10, 2017 10:37am
 Chris Kennedy says he's running for Illinois governor to restore the state's economy.
Chris Kennedy says he's running for Illinois governor to restore the state's economy.
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You Tube/Chris Kennedy

THE LOOP — Chris Kennedy, the businessman son of slain U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, announced Wednesday he will run for Illinois governor.

Chris Kennedy, 53, who ran the Merchandise Mart and is developing Wolf Point on the Chicago River, said he was running to "restore the economy" of Illinois.

"We need change, not incremental change, but fundamental change," Kennedy said in an announcement video posted online Wednesday. "The state is headed in the wrong direction."

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) is the only other candidate to have announced a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. J.B. Pritzker, another wealthy Chicago businessman, as well as state Sen. Andy Manar and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos have said they are considering running for governor.

In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner asked supporters for help defeating Kennedy. In December, Rauner gave his campaign $50 million.

Rauner and Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan have been locked in a bitter fight over the state's budget.

The governor wants lawmakers to adopt his agenda, which he says will spur business growth in Illinois as part of a budget agreement. Democrats have refused, and the impasse has lasted nearly two years.

Although he did not refer to Rauner by name, Kennedy said he believed "in working with others, not telling them what to do" and that "compromise is not surrender."

In a statement, the Illinois Republican Party said Kennedy was running to do the bidding of Madigan.

"We need a governor who will fight for reform, not another Mike Madigan-first politician," said GOP spokesman Steven Yaffe.

Kennedy, a resident of north suburban Kenilworth, is the former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and founder of Top Box Foods, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable, healthy food to Chicago neighborhoods. 

He is the eighth of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy's 11 children and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy. Born on July 4, 1963, he was just 4 years old when his father, former attorney general in the Kennedy administration, was slain by Sirhan Sirhan in 1968 while running for president.

He and his wife Sheila have four children.