The next election for governor of Illinois is not until November 2018, but already Chris Kennedy is making the rounds for a possible campaign, sources told NBC Chicago.
Kennedy, the eighth of 11 children of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, has lived in the Chicago suburbs for nearly 30 years.
He had previously considered a run for the U.S. Senate in 2009, but opted out shortly after. Instead, Gov. Pat Quinn appointed Kennedy Chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.
He and his wife now run Top Box Foods, a nonprofit providing fresh food options in the inner city.
Sources tell NBC 5 Kennedy has been meeting privately with key Democratic leaders and possible donors.
“I have heard that Chris is more serious this time,” said Eric Adelstein, a Democratic strategist. “Look, I think we have a unique situation, and here’s why -- I believe Rauner is a failed governor.”
However, Republican strategist Chris Robling disagreed, saying “the concern over politics 2 and a half years from now reflect the fear over discomfort.”
Robling is well aware that lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner have been unable to reach a budget deal now for the second year in a row. Robling says “things have to change and change is very, very trying.”
Republicans are launching online ads attacking House Speaker Michael Madigan. The governor is fighting back as Democrats say no grand compromise will happen until after the November election.
Rauner, speaking to reporters Thursday, said, “we should not let elections or electioneering get in the way of doing the right thing for the families of our state.”
Other names mentioned as potential Democratic candidates for governor include U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, but he has said he’s not interested. If Chris Kennedy does run, it would be the 50th anniversary of his father’s 1968 campaign for president.
“Chris is a guy who will not just run on that name, I think he’s going to run on accomplishments and a vision,” Adelstein said.
Robling, however, notes, “he has had relatives who’ve done well and he’s had other relatives who’ve done terribly and Chris might be on one side of the family or the other, who knows?”
NBC 5 has reached out to Kennedy but he declined to comment.