July 21, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
Christopher Kennedy is now debating whether to jump into the 2010 Democratic primary for Illinois governor, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Asked to confirm that Tuesday, Kennedy's spokeswoman, Casey Madden, would only say, "Chris is keeping all his options open."
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Chris Kennedy watches Mayor Daley during a press conference on the 40th anniversary of the Special Olympics in July 2008. Kennedy is now considering running for Governor of Illinois.
Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, currently is the CEO of the Chicago Merchandise Mart. For months, the speculation has been that he would run for U.S. Senate.
First, however, he was said to be waiting to see if Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was in the hunt for the job. Madigan's name recognition and popularity would have been an obstacle -- not to mention the fact that the Obama White House was trying its darndest to persuade her to opt for the Senate run rather than the governor's race.
But Madigan this month stunned just about everyone by declaring she was staying put, running for election to a third term as attorney general.
And now, Kennedy is reconsidering, according to several informed sources.
But the clock is ticking.
Petitions for next February's primary begin to circulate Aug. 4.
For Kennedy, money is no object.
But despite the fact that he comes from a legendary political clan that produced a president of the United States and two U.S. Senators revered by Democratic party faithful, voters do not know this 46-year-old Kenilworth husband and father of four.
Meanwhile, Chris Kennedy risks becoming the Hamlet of Illinois politics.
"To be or not to be?" has been his persistent question.
In 2000 he seriously considered going after John Porter's former seat in the 10th Congressional District, the one currently occupied by Republican Mark Kirk, who just Monday announced a bid for U.S. Senate in 2010.
In 2002, after debating more than a year about running for governor, Kennedy didn't. Rod Blagojevich was elected.
In 2004, he considered, then rejected, a race for United States Senate. That's the seat that Barack Obama ultimately won.
And so it goes.
Kennedy, who has established himself as a solid businessman and innovative civic leader, has been a frustration to friends and politicos alike who have encouraged his ambition only to be left at the altar when he decided the time wasn't right.
Then again, Chris Kennedy has no need to please anyone but himself.
He's worth a fortune and has no need to indulge fund-raisers' yearnings to invest in a winner. He has access to a national political network of powerful people. And he has many years ahead of him to run after his kids are out of the house and on their own.
Still, as Harold Washington loved to remind, "Politics ain't beanbag."
And Chris Kennedy has neither filed for office in the past nor even held a news conference.
It takes practice and talent and no small amount of luck to pull off any race, or for that matter, to even to get appointed to something.
Caroline Kennedy proved that was true this year in New York when she appeared to be a shoo-in for Hillary Clinton's empty Senate seat. Awkward and surprisingly unprepared, she saw the Kennedy magic evaporate, and she had little choice but to withdraw.
Then again, argues one unnamed Kennedy booster, "Chris may have more time to decide than most. ... The problem for the Democratic party is races are all about the incumbent. If you've been in Springfield for the past eight [or more] years, you will get hit with millions of dollars in negative TV ads."
And so Gov. Quinn, who's been around a long time, and Comptroller Dan Hynes who's got a lengthy political resume, each have a record on which to be attacked should they, as expected, run in 2010.
Chris Kennedy, who's never run for anything, doesn't.
Unless he finally decides to stop talking about it.
And actually run.