Chris Kennedy Slams Rauner, Dodges Questions About Gubernatorial Run

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Businessman Chris Kennedy stoked further speculation about a possible gubernatorial run after slamming Gov. Bruce Rauner during a breakfast at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday.

Kennedy, who is the son of former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, addressed the Illinois delegation Tuesday morning, ripping Rauner’s beleaguered Turnaround Agenda.

“This governor’s so-called Turnaround Agenda is another form of misdirection, part of the narrative that government doesn’t work so he’s going to have to privatize it,” Kennedy said. “The suffering and chaos that he has unleashed on the people of Illinois needs to end."

Kennedy touted his business acumen throughout the speech. He previously served as president of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart before selling his ownership stake in 2012 and starting a grocery nonprofit, Top Box Foods.

He noted that relocating businesses aren’t concerned with key components of Rauner’s agenda, like redistricting, tort reform, right to work or prevailing wage.

After the speech, Kennedy was followed by a cluster of reporters asking if he would run for governor in 2018. Kennedy did not respond to the questions.

According to the Chicago Tribune, House Speaker Mike Madigan said Kennedy would be an “excellent candidate" for governor Tuesday, citing his business experience and family history.

At the beginning of his speech, Kennedy thanked Madigan for inviting him to address the delegation. Madigan, who serves as the Democratic Party chairman, explained that Kennedy sought out the invitation. The speaker also said he has met with Kennedy about a potential gubernatorial bid.

Sources told NBC Chicago last month that Kennedy was making the rounds for a possible campaign.

Over the course of the first two days of the DNC, there has been a considerable amount of speculation about which Illinois Democrat will take on Rauner in 2018.

On Monday, Sen. Dick Durbin deflected questions about a possible bid, while House Speaker Mike Madigan called Durbin “uniquely qualified” for the role. Madigan noted that he and Durbin talked about the prospect as recently as “a few months ago.”

The speaker’s daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, has also been considered a potential pick for Democrats. According to the Tribune, Madigan said Illinois “would not be well served by having a governor and speaker of the House from the same family” Monday. She added that she “never planned to run if that would be the case."

Chicago Ald. Ed Burke speculated Monday about Durbin potentially leaving the Senate if Democrats are able to regain the majority in the fall, the Tribune reports. He also called Valerie Jarrett “an exciting possibility” for a gubernatorial candidate. Jarett has been a longtime advisor to President Barack Obama.

Additionally, State Sen. Kwame Raoul, who occupied Obama’s old seat, said that he would be interested in a gubernatorial bid Monday.