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Former U.S. Rep. Phil Hare is endorsing Democrat Chris Kennedy for Illinois governor, saying he's best equipped to lead the state, which has gone through years of budget and political struggles.

Hare, who represented the 17th congressional district from 2007 to 2011, hosted a fundraiser for Kennedy on Friday at his Rock Island home.

"I enthusiastically support Chris Kennedy to be the next governor because he possesses the right combination of experience and progressive values to lead Illinois out of the mess we’re currently in,” Hare said in a statement released by the Kennedy campaign on Friday. “I also believe that having Chris Kennedy at the top of the ticket will help all Democrats down the ballot throughout Illinois.”

Hare also praised Kennedy, saying that had supported labor unions, notably during his tenure leading the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

Before winning election to Congress, Hare was the longtime district director for the late congressman, Lane Evans.

In his endorsement, Hare said Kennedy represents the same values that Evans fought for.

Kennedy is among a handful of Democrats seeking the party's nomination to run against incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican.

Also in the race are: state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evansdale, businessman J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, state Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, Madison County regional schools superintendent Bob Daiber and Tio Hardiman, a community organizer in Chicago.

The primary will be March 20.