MARION - It is easy to see the father in the son. Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Chris Kennedy, bears a resemblance to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, his late father, but in the eyes of the crowd that came to hear his speech he was just a man who could possibly bring relief to a beleaguered state.
Kennedy made a stop on his campaign trail in Marion Saturday afternoon, at the rather unlikely venue of Pookie's Beer, Burgers and Bocce just off Tower Square. What seemed at first an unconventional meeting place turned out to be a natural fit for this candidate.
Despite the fact that he had driven downstate from East St. Louis to Cairo and would drive back to Chicago after visiting Harrisburg, all in the same day, Kennedy did not appear to be in a hurry to leave Marion. Both before and after his speech, he found time to shake hands, pose for pictures, and speak with each of those who had come to see him.
Those hoping for a moment of nostalgia were satisfied, as Kennedy's voice echoed the same cadence and vigor of his father's, a half-century ago.
Kennedy spoke to the "culture of fear that exists when people will not speak out for fear of losing state contracts."
Choosing not speak to his own accomplishments Saturday, the candidate for governor instead focused on his aunt Eunice Shriver's work to establish the Special Olympics in Chicago, and his uncle Edward Kennedy's commitment to civil rights.
Kennedy said he has a special interest in education, having served as the chairman on the board of trustees at the University of Illinois. He feels strongly that research institutions, including SIUC, should receive proper funding. He saod he thinks about Illinois in terms of its economic and educational contributions mean to the world.
Kennedy has a background in agricultural business and has worked in Decatur. He knows that many are in need of help, and says "we need to make change available to everybody."
He maintained that the "poor stay poor" in Illinois because "income hasn't risen" and "the wealthy should pay their fair share. We have pushed the poor our of our state," he said, adding that "anybody with a sick child" or "in need of a job" must often leave. He hopes to create jobs that will be around not just for a few years, but for decades.
Kennedy said he is against relying on property taxes to fund Illinois schools, and points out that it is not done that way in other parts of the country. He insists there is money available for local schools and colleges. Kennedy argued that "Governor Rauner is trying to kill them so they fail," which Kennedy said "would be a short- and long-term disaster."
Kennedy's running mate for lieutenant governor, Ray Joy, is a former student and football player at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He, too, spoke to the group.
He said that he was "proud and grateful to join Chris in his campaign." He spoke about how he has dedicated his life to bringing about positive change in this state, and said there is a "desperate need for new government ethics."
Joy maintained that "people who love and care" can make a difference, because "real, lasting change comes from a lot of us. We share a vision of Illinois as a place where ordinary people can change the future and we will pursue that vision relentlessly."
The "meet and greet" was hosted by the Southern Illinois Democratic Women's Organization, and co-organizer Brandi Bradley had a clear objective regarding the event.
"We wanted to give our members an opportunity to hear from all of the candidates, so they can make an educated decision on March 20th, because on March 21st, we will come back together and focus our attention on getting rid of this governor (incumbent Bruce Rauner)."