By Gina Cherelus
(Reuters) – Businessman Chris Kennedy, a member of the Kennedy family political dynasty, on Wednesday officially announced his campaign for governor of Illinois in the November, 2018 election.
After months of speculation, the Democratic candidate formally filed paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections, said his spokesman, Mark Bergman.
Kennedy, son of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, said he will run against Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and will work to create more jobs and restore the economy.
“Today, I am announcing my run for Governor because I love Illinois, but we have never been in worse shape,” Kennedy said in an emailed statement. “We don’t need incremental improvement – we need fundamental change in state government.”
Since taking office in 2015, Rauner has feuded with the Democratic-led state legislature, leaving the nation’s fifth most-populated state without a full-year operating budget. No other state has gone 19 months, as Illinois has, without passing a budget.
Bergman said Kennedy had previously considered a U.S. Senate run in 2009 but concluded it was not the right time.
Illinois Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffe said in a statement that Kennedy secretly met with the state’s House of Representatives Speaker Mike Madigan to “kiss his ring.”
Rauner has said Madigan’s law firm poses a conflict of interest for the speaker.
Kennedy, 53, a Chicago resident, is a former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. He leads Top Box Foods, a nonprofit organization he co-founded with his wife that provides affordable, healthy foods to Chicago neighborhoods.
He also managed the Merchandise Mart, a landmark Chicago exhibition hall, and currently oversees Wolf Point, a real estate development project in the city’s downtown.
Kennedy’s father, Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1968 while serving as a U.S. senator. His uncle, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963 during his first term as president.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Alan Crosby and Dan Grebler)