Endorsement: Kennedy for governor in Democratic primary

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From a distance, Chris Kennedy doesn’t seem to look much like his charismatic father. But up close, looking at him from the side, you recognize it in his profile: the unmistakable reflection of Robert F. Kennedy.

At first blush, Kennedy seems surprisingly ill-suited to politics, an introvert in an extrovert’s profession. He doesn’t work the room the way politicians do. And he doesn’t duck questions the way they do either. That penchant for candor occasionally adds bite to an answer that more calculating candidates might work to avoid.

But Kennedy is so much more than those superficial first impressions.

Up close, he carries forth his family’s legacy with strength and eloquence. He aspires to be a servant leader in the finest tradition of the phrase. His underlying philosophy is rooted in a belief that the highest service is owed to those who are the least privileged.

In an era of cynicism and stark partisanship that speak to our worst impulses, Kennedy provides a refreshing call to our better angels.

“In our state,” Kennedy says, “we need to restore politics to an honorable profession. No great progress in America has ever come without the people taking a stand.”

Bright and widely experienced, he campaigns for governor on an exceptional and nuanced vision for Illinois that is both well reasoned and well articulated.

It starts with striking out unequivocally at the corruption in the state’s politics — including powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan from his own party.

It involves tapping into the state’s universities as the center of a strategy to drive economic growth, understanding that today, jobs follow a highly skilled workforce rather than the other way around.

It involves reforming the property tax system and investing in education as high and interconnecting priorities.

It involves a dedication to equal opportunity that also includes an understanding of how challenging that equality is to achieve.

“Today in America,” he says, “if you were born poor, you’ll probably stay poor. If you were born rich, you’ll probably stay rich. If you were born in between, you’ll probably have a life of great turmoil.”

Six candidates are running in the Democratic primary for governor. State Sen. Daniel Biss, downstate regional school superintendent Bob Daiber, community activist Tio Hardiman, physician Robert Marshall, venture capitalist and philanthropist J.B. Pritzker and our choice: Chris Kennedy.

All are earnest and likable. Many would be capable governors.

But our endorsement goes to Kennedy, a servant leader with the vision to reshape Illinois and the courage, wisdom and temperament to make it happen.

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