After months of speculation, Chicago Democrat Chris Kennedy officially announced his candidacy in the 2018 governor’s race Wednesday.
“I moved to Illinois thirty years ago with an enthusiasm for business and a commitment to serve,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Today, I am announcing my run for Governor because I love Illinois, but we have never been in worse shape. We need incremental improvement — we need fundamental change in state government.”
“By working together to achieve results for Illinois families, I believe we can restore the American Dream in our state within a generation,” he added.
Kennedy, the son of the late Bobby Kennedy, has become increasingly visible over the past year, meeting with labor and party leaders in Illinois. In July, he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, slamming Gov. Bruce Rauner in front of the Illinois delegation.
As expected, Kennedy became the second high-profile Democrat to challenge Rauner in the 2018 governor’s race after Ald. Ameya Pawar announced his candidacy last month. In his announcement Wednesday, Kennedy stressed solidarity and touted his business acumen.
“It’s time for Illinois to again embrace the American Dream — the notion that we are a country and a state where anyone can make it and where unlimited opportunity is the promise of our country,” Kennedy said.
“Every job I’ve had, every organization I’ve been a part of, has relied on teams working together and shared leadership, which resulted in shared success,” he added. “I’ve straddled the worlds of business politics, and social justice. I know how an economy is meant to function, not just for the rich, but for all members of all communities. Together, we can fix the mess and restore the promise of our state.”
The Democrat, who previously managed Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and now heads a hunger-relief nonprofit alongside his wife, reportedly aims to partially self-fund his campaign.
Rauner used Kennedy’s announcement as an opportunity to fundraise for his own campaign Wednesday.
“We’re here to tell you that Illinois deserves better," the governor's campaign said. “Why? Because Chris Kennedy is a pawn of Mike Madigan. Kennedy secretly met with Mike Madigan to get his seal of approval before announcing his candidacy. And now he wants to do Madigan’s bidding.”
During the DNC, Kennedy met with House Speaker Michael Madigan to discuss his prospective bid. Madigan, who serves as the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, said Kennedy would make an “excellent candidate” for governor.
The Illinois Republican Party also slammed Kennedy and Madigan Wednesday, launching a website to highlight their ties.
Rep. Cheri Bustos announced Tuesday that she has given herself a 30-day deadline to decide whether she will run in the race, according to the QC Times. Bustos is among a growing list of prospective candidates for the race.
Last month, the Illinois Democratic County Chairman’s Association announced the results of their first online gubernatorial straw poll.
The poll, which was conducted between Jan. 23 and Jan. 29 and received 5,352 responses, asked respondents to select their preferred Democratic candidate to run for governor in 2018.
State Sen. Daniel Biss received the most votes, with a quarter of respondents backing the Evanston mathematician. Pawar finished second, receiving 15 percent of the vote, while Kennedy pulled in 12 percent.
Additionally, Bustos received 11 percent of the vote, billionaire J.B. Pritzker scored 10 percent, state Sen. Andy Manar garnered 7 percent, Rep. Robin Kelly received 4 percent, state Sen. Kwame Raoul tallied 2 percent, and Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers received 1 percent of the vote.
Missing from the list of prospective candidates was Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who chose not to be included, and former Gov. Pat Quinn, who wasn’t considered a new candidate by the IDCCA.
Nevertheless, Madigan grabbed 87 votes as a write-in option, while Quinn received 45 votes. Other write-in candidates included Sen. Dick Durbin, who received 41 votes, and State Treasurer Mike Frerichs, who received 24 votes. Alex Paterakis, a young political newcomer who already declared his candidacy for the race, also pulled in 39 votes.