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May 20, 2009

Kennedy running for Senate

Democrats could have another Kennedy in the Senate chamber.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last night that businessman Chris Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy, will be running for the Senate in Illinois.

And Kennedy’s pollster John Anzalone confirmed to POLITICO that Kennedy will soon be entering the race, joining a Democratic primary against state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and, possibly, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.).

For his part, Kennedy told Lynn Sweet Tuesday night: "I'm keeping my options alive and working through a whole series of issues still."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson are also mulling over campaigns.

Kennedy is the president of the real estate firm Merchandise Mart Properties, and has the resources to at least partially self-finance a campaign. A Giannoulias-Kennedy primary would be one of the most closely watched in the country, with two powerful names and fundraisers clashing against each other.

In less than a month, Giannoulias raised $1.1 million for his exploratory committee, and has maintained a strong fundraising pace since then.

Kennedy’s decision to run also suggests that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan won’t be running for the Senate, and instead has her eyes on the governor’s race.  The only way Madigan would change her plans to run for governor is if Democrats cleared the primary field for her, and Kennedy's entrance rules that possibility out.

Republicans, meanwhile, are waiting for suburban Chicago Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to decide whether he’s running or not. Without Kirk in the race, Republicans would have a much tougher time contesting the seat – as the GOP bench is awfully thin in Illinois.