JOLIET – Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, spoke at the Will and Grundy Counties Trades and Labor Council Dinner on Friday night.
Kennedy is the son of Robert Kennedy, the former U.S. attorney general and senator, and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy. He moved to Illinois after he graduated from Boston College to begin his business career, earned his MBA at Northwestern University and has served as chairman of the board of trustees for the University of Illinois.
Like many of his Democratic rivals have been, Kennedy was critical of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has not agreed to a full operating budget with Democrats in Springfield for nearly two years.
“This is not a stalemate,” Kennedy said. “This is a hostage taking. This governor isn't interested in negotiating a budget. If he wanted to negotiate a budget he could get it done within a week and there would be Democratic and Republican support. He's holding that budget hostage for his turnaround agenda.”
That agenda includes measures such as property tax freezes, lawsuit reform and “right to work” zones, which leaves the decision of whether to require workers to join a union up to voters in their own communities. Unions such as the Will and Grundy Counties Trades and Labor Council see right to work zones as an attempt to weaken the influence of unions statewide.
“We're definitely not supporting Rauner,” said Council President Charlie Hanus. “We're looking for somebody that can work with people instead of trying to dictate like Rauner.”
Kennedy also spoke about struggling communities across the state. He specifically mentioned communities downstate with fewer resources such as grocery stores and hospitals as readily accessible as they are in the Chicago area. He said those struggling have become angry with the wealthy, the elite and politicians, and that's why they voted in Republicans like President Donald Trump. He argued Democrats need to start paying attention to those communities.
“The thing is, if we don't repair the damage, if we don't give them what they want, that is the restoration of the American dream, if we don't restore that, they'll send somebody worse than Donald Trump,” he said.
More than 200 people attended the event at the 176 West banquet hall in Joliet, including several local elected officials such as Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk; U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs; and state Sens. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood.
Kennedy was not the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate in town Friday. Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar attended a meeting of the Will County Progressives to answer their questions.