By Bob Skolnik
A Kennedy came to Brookfield Thursday night.
Democratic candidate for governor Chris Kennedy was one of about 15 candidates who spoke at a meet and greet in a crowded back room at Slager's on 47th Street hosted by Indivisible Brookfield.
With the March 20 primary fast approaching and early voting having already begun, about 50 people crammed into the small room to see some candidates up close.
In addition to Kennedy, other high-profile candidates venturing to Brookfield were Sharon Fairley and Jesse Ruiz, who are both running for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.
Also speaking was Fritz Kaegi, who is mounting a strong challenge to Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios; 24th District state representative candidate Robert Reyes; Peter Gariepy, who is mounting a longshot challenge to Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas; Cam Davis, a write-in candidate for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District; and host of judicial candidates.
Most candidates only spoke for just a couple of minutes, but Kennedy, a businessman from Kenilworth and the son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, spoke for nearly 20 minutes.
Kennedy is running against billionaire J.B. Pritzker, state Sen. Daniel Biss, former CeaseFire Illinois Director Tio Hardiman, Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber, and Dr. Robert Marshall.
Kennedy, a former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, has positioned himself as an outsider. He stressed the need for good education as the foundation of a strong economy and strongly criticized the reliance on property taxes to fund local schools in Illinois.
As he has throughout the campaign, Kennedy claimed that the property tax system in Illinois is rigged and he harshly criticized Speaker of the Illinois House Mike Madigan and Berrios for being at the center of a corrupt system.
He noted that Madigan, who also serves as the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, is a partner of a Chicago law firm that specializes in property tax appeals.
Kennedy said that Madigan and other politicians won't change the current system that relies on property taxes because they profit from it by working as property tax appeal lawyers.
"They're making money on this system so they won't let us change it," Kennedy said.
Two recent studies concluded that lower priced properties in Cook County are often overassessed while high-priced properties tend to be underassessed.
Kaegi, a mutual fund manager from Oak Park, is mounting a strong challenge to Berrios and is largely self-funding his campaign. He managed the $5 billion Acorn mutual fund before stepping down to run for assessor.
Kaegi has also picked up some high-profile endorsements from six Chicago area members of Congress, including Danny Davis (7th), Cook County Commissioners Richard Boykin and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Cook County Clerk David Orr, among ohers.
Kaegi, who spoke for a little over five minutes, pledged to run the assessor's office in an ethical, transparent, and fair manner. He promised that he would tell people how their property taxes are calculated.
If elected, Kaegi said he would quickly implement a new model for assessing property.
"The office already owns it," Kaegi said. "They refuse to implement it, because it would hurt the people who donate to Joe Berrios's campaign. It is much less regressive, much more accurate."
Berrios was not invited to the event.
"The way we have been approaching the meet and greets is to bring in candidates that our residents don't know already based on public record," said Mitzi Norton a founding member of Indivisible Brookfield and a member of its steering committee.