DECATUR — Democrat Chris Kennedy, during a campaign stop Monday in Decatur, promoted himself as an anti-establishment candidate for Illinois governor.

“Kennedys have always been oppositional to the entrenched interest,” said Kennedy, noting his father, Sen. Robert Kennedy, ran against sitting President Lyndon B. Johnson, and his uncle, Ted Kennedy, had a primary challenge against President Jimmy Carter. “We love the Democratic Party, but we love America more.”

The stop in Decatur was brief, with Kennedy in town to grab lunch at Paco’s Sol Bistro and meet with a handful of local supporters before heading to a candidate forum Monday night in Urbana. The stop marked a return for Kennedy to his first home in Illinois.

After graduating from Boston College in 1986, Kennedy moved to Decatur to work at Archer Daniels Midland Co.

With an interest in combating world hunger, Kennedy said he wanted to work at ADM so he could learn more about “how food was grown and distributed." A search for a phone number eventually led Kennedy Dwayne Andreas, the longtime chairman and CEO of ADM and a prolific donor to political causes, who eventually hired the fresh-faced Kennedy and placed him in the company’s training program.

From there, Kennedy would set his roots in Chicago, later becoming chairman of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, president of Merchandise Mart Properties in Chicago and chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Though he was in Decatur for less than a year, Kennedy said he enjoyed his experience. Yet, when he visits now, Kennedy says he finds a region that has started to lose faith in the American dream.

To turn that around, Kennedy promised that he is the lone candidate who would take on his own party, as well as incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner, in order to root out corruption and take the state in the direction it needs to thrive.

Kennedy is seeking the Democratic nomination in the spring in a crowded field that includes state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston; Madison County Regional Schools Superintendent Bod Daiber; Chicago community organizer Tio Hardiman; and J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune. 

Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican lawmaker, also has announced her plans to seek the GOP nomination against Rauner. 

The candidates have raised more than $100 million in the past year combined. Kennedy put $250,100 in his campaign fund in March and another $250,000 more recently. 

On Monday, Kennedy railed against lawmakers such as House Speaker Michael Madigan who serve in the General Assembly in addition to working as property tax appeal lawyers. He spoke at length about how he hoped to make it illegal for lawmakers to hold such positions, saying such practices harmed children and increased property taxes on the community.

“Our elected officials, a handful not all of them, are making money on a system that is dooming our children to a life of economic servitude, destroying our economy, pushing our kids so that they may not be able to remain in our communities, and destroying the future of our state,” Kennedy said.

An October Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll showed Pritzker up 39 percent to 15 percent among the 1,154 likely Democratic primary voters surveyed. Kennedy on Monday said he expects his message of change will resonate with voters. He plans to start running television ads by January.

“If you think it’s time to end the property tax racket, If you don’t like people making money as elected officials with side jobs and destroying your kids future, raising the taxes on your house, wrecking your communities, then come help me out,” Kennedy said.

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Staff Writer

Government-watchdog reporter for the Herald & Review.

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