Democratic candidate for governor, Chris Kennedy, waited until the last question of the night of Jan. 15 to deliver a direct attack on rival and perceived Democratic frontrunner, J.B. Pritzker.
“If people in this state want the status quo, they’ve got a champion to protect them in J.B. Pritzker,” said Kennedy in an appearance before about 70 people at a meeting of Indivisible Oak Park Area at Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn. “If they want somebody that Rauner can beat they’ve got a candidate in J.B. Pritzker. If they want to change the future of this state they got to go another direction, that’s what I propose.”
Kennedy said nominating Pritzker would play into the Republican playbook.
“He’s the poster child that supports the contention that Republicans use from coast to coast that government is broken and politicians are corrupt, there is nothing you can do about it so don’t bother voting,” Kennedy said.
He attacked Pritzker for meeting last year with Cicero Village President Larry Dominick, powerful lobbyist Al Ronan and some other suburban politicians. Kennedy cast Pritzker as part of a corrupt status quo.
“He’s part of that system,” Kennedy said. “He declares that he’s going to run and his first move is to go out to Cicero and meet with those guys.”
Kennedy attacked Pritzker for buying a home next to his Gold Coast mansion and ripping the toilets out of the home to have it declared uninhabitable and thus reduce the property tax bill on the home.
Kennedy has made attacks on the property tax system, especially in Cook County, a centerpiece of his campaign. He attacked Mike Madigan the powerful speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and chairman of the state Democratic Party for his work as a property tax appeals lawyer.
Madigan is generally viewed as supporting Pritzker in the March 20 primary, even though he has made no endorsement in the governor’s race.
Kennedy said that elected officials should not be allowed to work as property tax appeals lawyers.
“I think we should give them a choice: a choice between being a state rep or making millions of dollars a year as a property tax appeals lawyer,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also indirectly attacked rival Daniel Biss, who supports a so-called LaSalle Street tax, a small tax on options trades. he said that because financial trading is now done electronically, trading could be done in such a way to avoid a state tax.
“Anybody who stands before you and says I’ve got a way to fund the entire state, we’re just going to pass a LaSalle Street tax, they’re pandering,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy, like his rivals, supports a progressive state income tax, which would require an amendment to the state constitution. But he also said that Illinois could follow the practice of Massachusetts and combine a flat income tax with generous credits for low and middle-income workers to have, in practice, a progressive income tax without amending the constitution.
Kennedy said that state funding of schools must be increased, because education is the key to improving job prospects and reinvigorating the state’s economy.
“If we give the world highly educated high school and college graduates, the world will give us jobs,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also vowed to protect the pensions of public employees.
“We cannot take away the pensions that people have earned,” Kennedy said. “They earned it under a contract. It’s a property right. I think we should honor the pensions that people have earned.”
Kennedy won over some who came to meeting undecided about whom to support for governor, such as Victoria Ferrarini of Oak Park.
“He felt real to me,” said Ferrarini who admitted that she didn’t know Kennedy was even running for governor until a friend invited her to the meeting. “It felt as though this is someone who gets it.”
Kennedy also impressed Amy Goodman of Oak Park.
“He was articulate, he was progressive; I’m very impressed with him,” Goodman said.
But Goodman, who has also seen Pritzker and Biss speak, said she has not yet decided whom to vote for in the Democratic primary.
“I have to really sit down and pick apart what they each said,” Goodman said. “But I will say this: I want someone who will win, who will beat Rauner, so I have to look at that part of the equation.”