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Kennedy, Biss spar over who should drop out of race, Pritzker drops from sight

Democratic gubernatorial candidates, from left, Daniel Biss, Chris Kennedy and Tio Hardiman participated in a forum with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Chris Kennedy suggested Thursday that front-runner J.B. Pritzker drop out of the Democratic primary for governor because ethical failings make him unelectable in the general election.

State Sen. Daniel Biss responded by saying maybe the “hypocritical” Kennedy should drop out, too.

Don’t worry, dear voter. Only a few more days left in the 2018 Illinois primary campaign. Before it starts all over again.

Surrounded by poster-size blow-ups of unfavorable news stories about Pritzker, Kennedy held a news conference to make what might best be described as his closing argument for why Democratic voters should NOT vote for Pritzker.

“I believe he is unelectable in the general election, and if he believes in public service and sacrifice, he would sacrifice his own political career in service to the Democratic Party of the state of Illinois, and frankly to the people of Illinois, by dropping out of the race,” Kennedy said.

Pritzker wasn’t around to scoff for himself.

On the day following a Chicago Tribune investigative report about his offshore holdings that put Pritzker on the defensive for the last televised debate of the campaign, the billionaire candidate headed to far downstate Venice outside St. Louis for a campaign rally.

Otherwise, he might have pointed to the results of a recent Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll that showed him leading both Kennedy and Biss by a better than two-to-one margin.

Pritzker’s communications director, Galia Slayen, called it another example of Kennedy “throwing anything at the wall in a desperate attempt to get something to stick.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker | Sun-Times file photo
Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker | Sun-Times file photo

“It’s no surprise that Kennedy is trying to get the only candidate who can beat Bruce Rauner to drop out,” she said. “Kennedy did praise him after all.”

Kennedy was serious, not that he seriously thinks Pritzker really would drop out. His comments about Pritzker dropping out were not part of his prepared remarks, instead coming as part of a rambling response to a reporter’s question.

It wasn’t clear how serious Biss was when he sent this response later through campaign spokesman Tom Elliott:

“If the concern about JB Pritzker is that he’s hiding his offshore accounts, his income and his taxes from voters, then shouldn’t Chris Kennedy also drop out of the race?

“Chris Kennedy and JB Pritzker are two sides of the same gold coin: they refuse to release their full tax returns, while standing on a record of tax scams and tax avoidance.”

RELATED: Chicago Sun-Times 2018 Illinois Primary Voting Guide

Kennedy sounded upbeat about his chances, claiming undecided voters are breaking two-to-one in his favor in the closing days of the campaign as they focus on Pritzker’s shortcomings.

He accused Pritzker of heading Downstate intentionally to avoid tough questions from reporters about his offshore holdings in hopes “his millions of dollars in television ads will take him to Election Day.”

“That is exactly what Bruce Rauner is hoping that the Democrats will fall for,” Kennedy said. “Rauner knows that of the Democrats in the primary Pritzker is the easiest to beat on Election Day in the general.”

Kennedy ran through a litany of Pritzker’s greatest negative hits from the campaign, starting with a Sun-Times report last May about how he received a large property tax break on an Astor Street mansion by removing the toilets and allowing it to become “uninhabitable,” all the way through the new Tribune revelations about his offshore wealth and the possible tax dodging implications.

Pritzker launched a new television commercial focusing his own fire back at the Republican Rauner, again labeling him a “failure.”