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Chris Kennedy on Mike Madigan, His Big Family, and Not Dying Alone

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate explains why he hasn’t gotten much support from the party’s leaders, and why he wants to be governor.

Photo: Lisa Predko; Assistant/Retouching: Tom Michas; Groomer: Sophia Porter

Why do you want to be governor?

I don’t want to die alone. I don’t want my children to leave the state and leave me behind. We have the biggest out-migration of college freshmen of any state in the country, with the exception of New Jersey.

Because of our crumbling economy?

[Business] isn’t going to flock to Illinois when 75 percent of every high school class needs remedial education before they can go to community college or a university. [A Chicago Tribune report said only that 75 percent were not prepared for key college courses.]

Governor Rauner has turned House speaker Mike Madigan into the enemy of the people. How do you see him?

That an elected official can be a property tax appeals lawyer is not illegal, but it should be.

Madigan seems to support J.B. Pritzker.

When I say what he does should be illegal, it’s not surprising that he supports someone else.

You haven’t gotten support from county officials like Joseph Berrios—

Berrios, I think, is violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act. People in predominantly African American towns in Cook County and wards in Chicago are being overassessed. Almost no elected officials stood up to Berrios and said, “What you’re doing is wrong,” because they’re scared of him.

When it comes to wooing Amazon, it seems like you’ve said we’d better think this through.

It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and we should pursue it. Having said that, the way you build a modern economy is to support research institutions. The alumni of MIT alone have started 30,000 companies. I’d rather have an MIT here.

You were 4 when your father, Bobby Kennedy, was killed. Do you have memories of him?

Let’s keep moving.

Will your mother, Ethel, come to Illinois to campaign for you?

She campaigned two weeks ago [in early October]. A whole bunch of the Kennedy women were there. Somebody once asked Rose Kennedy the secret of political success: “You need to start with a very big family.”

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

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