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Chris Kennedy hits trail, tells pastors Rauner agenda is ‘B.S.’

Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy

Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Businessman and Democratic candidate for governor Chris Kennedy called Illinois’ current chief executive’s pro-business agenda “B.S,” while speaking to a group of South Side pastors Thursday.

“What we need is certainty. What we need is predictability,” Kennedy said, speaking at Bethlehem Star Church on South Cottage Grove. “What we need is a budget. Gov. Rauner, do your job. Get us a state budget.”

Kennedy formerly managed the Merchandise Mart, and he said he dealt with 5,000 companies during his 25 years there.

“Not one in 25 years ever said to me that they were worried about coming to Illinois because of the way we draw our state rep. districts,” Kennedy said. “None of them said they were worried about tort reform or workers’ comp or term limits. That agenda is B.S. when it comes to attracting companies to our state.”

Pastor Ira Acree, of Greater St. John Bible Church in the Austin neighborhood, listens as Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy addresses Pastors United For Change at Bethlehem Star Missionary Baptist Church, 9231 S. Cottage Grove Ave., on Thursday. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Kennedy also noted that in driving to the South Side Thursday, he’d passed by the financially troubled Chicago State University.

“It reminded me how grim things have become in our state — to see one of the great institutions in our community idled, belittled, weakened by a governor who doesn’t care,” Kennedy said.

He said name calling is not “super helpful” — like when a Rauner spokesperson suggested the 5-foot-8-inch Mayor Rahm Emanuel had a “Napoleon complex” after Emanuel called Rauner “the emperor wears no clothes.”

That was followed on Thursday by Rauner accusing top Democratic elected officials of “colluding” to force a government shutdown.

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“It’s a distraction from the fact that the governor has failed to do his job,” said Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who announced his candidacy in February.

A spokesman for Rauner’s Illinois Republican Party said Kennedy’s ideas aren’t his own.

“Chris Kennedy keeps repeating [State House Speaker] Mike Madigan’s talking points because he wants to be the Speaker’s chosen candidate,” said the spokesman, Steven Yaffe. “Only a Madigan machine politician would call term limits, fair maps and job-creating economic reforms ‘B.S.'”

Pastor Ira Acree, of Greater St. John Bible Church, asked Kennedy about his plans to better fund schools.

Kennedy said Illinois needs to move away from the over-reliance on property taxes and said “we need to go to income taxes.”

“We should look at other states,” Kennedy said. “We should look at other countries. Let’s figure out who’s doing a good job and do what they do.”

Afterwards, Acree described Kennedy as a “great option right now” for a future governor.

But on the question of funding education, Acree said: “He was rather evasive with his answer.”