By Patrick Forrest, Chicago Crusader
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy held a rally at historic Quinn Chapel AME Church at 24th and Wabash along with supporters congressmen Danny Davis (D-Chicago) and Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) on Sunday, December 17. Kennedy, son of former Senator Robert Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, labels himself as the outsider of the governor’s race, pointing to Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Michael Madigan’s endorsement of his opponent, J.B Pritzker.
“He’s spent $42 million, he’s the establishment candidate,” Kennedy said. “And the speaker [Madigan] was able to use his role to compel unions to endorse Pritzker. He’s donated to Scott Walker in Wisconsin, this is a man who’s clearly been anti-union his entire life.”
With about $1.6 million in his campaign war chest, Kennedy plans to use an army of family members to help bolster his campaign. Overall, he has raised more than $3 million for his campaign according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “For many people who are running a national fundraising operation, they all hire consultants in multiple cities. Instead, I’m able to rely on my family members,” Kennedy told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Kennedy has laid out plans on gun violence, education and the economy at previous times but spent his time on stage at Quinn Chapel explaining what he saw as “a systematic attack on the poor and people of color in the state of Illinois.”
“Close the schools. You start with that,” he says. According to him, there is a four pronged strategy used to force people from a community. Kennedy says closing local public schools is a part of that strategy, that the schools are the heart of the community and without them there is no reason to fight any more.
Additional strategies include decreasing funding for law enforcement, closing hospitals, and allowing grocery store chains in the community to close. This strategy of utilizing purposeful attacks, results in, says Kennedy, “a community with nothing to fight for.”
Community activist and pastor of Unity Baptist Church Rev. Paul L. Jakes said, “Kennedy embraces the power of now to take care of the poor. Chris Kennedy is dealing with the important issues to bring an end to the lack of sensitivity of government to the poor. But moreover, he recognizes that we have to fulfill the movement that was started by Dr. King, his uncle, President Kennedy and his father, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, during the Civil Rights Movement. We have to pick it up and move that mandate forward. I, like so many others, am energized by the fact he is running for governor in 2018 and will give him my full support.”
Other community activists at the rally said that school closings like those currently being proposed in Englewood where CPS plans to shutter Harper, Hope, Robeson, and TEAM Englewood high schools in June 2018, demoralize a community and deplete its resources.
“A school can be built for up to 36 students to a classroom, but if you have students in reading or math more than a year behind, which many in CPS do, that cap is moved to 24.” Kennedy said. “Then you get Rahm or someone from CPS coming out telling you the school is underperforming, with a bunch of empty seats so we have to close it down.”
According to Kennedy, “there has been a relentless attack on the poor in the state of Illinois.” He says that “our economy shrunk in Illinois because of Bruce Rauner’s terrible leadership.”
Issues such as treatment of the poor are why Kennedy claims he placed his name in the race for governor in an attempt to change the direction of the Democratic party.
“If you like the moves of the Democratic party and have made it by successfully and want to keep on the current path, then Pritzker will be fine for you,” Kennedy said. “If you’re ready to shake things up and want real change brought in for you, your friends and your family, I’m the man for that job.”