Kennedy, running mate Joy, unite over personal tragedies

Chris Kennedy has picked Ra Joy, the executive director of Change Illinois as his running mate. The men have known each other for a long time but they say they recently grew closer by discussing personal tragedies.

Back in June, Joy’s 23-year-old son, Xavier, was shot and killed near the University of Chicago.

“It’s been a very painful summer for our family. We’ve endured any parent’s worst nightmare,” he says. “We’ve been trying to turn poison into medicine and find ways to turn pain into purpose.”

Joy says he sought out Kennedy for help dealing with his grief. Kennedy is the son of Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, two towering Americans gunned down by assassins.

“Chris has person experience losing a loved one in a sudden way to gun violence and we have that personal life story connection,” Joy says.

Now the men are running mates. Kennedy, a candidate for Illinois governor, has tapped Joy as his Lt. Governor. This new team plans to talk extensively about curbing Chicago’s gun violence problem. Kennedy has called for up to 2,000 more cops in the city. Asked how he’ll pay for it, Kennedy says, “Why doesn’t Rahm raise the taxes on the people who aren’t paying their fair share? Why doesn’t he sue like Mayor Daley did all of the big buildings in undervalue complaints.”

It’s that kind of talk, an anti-establishment, populace message, that Kennedy is running on. But the campaign has struggled to keep up with billionaire J.B. Pritzker’s fundraising and spending. Even State Senator Daniel Biss outraised Kennedy during the second quarter of this year.

“I don’t feel any need to turn things around. I like where I am,” Kennedy says. “The only way for the well-funded campaigns and the insiders to win in March is to get me to drop out now. So they work people like you with a whole army of communications people that they pay out of the $20 million in expenditures. (They) tell you that the campaign’s in disarray, people are leaving, changes are coming, that I’m about to drop out. None of that is true. I’m the smallest of seven brothers. They’re going to have to swing a lot harder than this.”

During the campaign, Kennedy has focused on Illinois’ extremely high property taxes, saying the system is “rigged” in favor of the wealthy and connected. This summer, the businessman reportedly withdrew his own property tax appeal on his Kenilworth residence. We asked Kennedy about the situation, and he used his answer to lash out at Pritzker.

“There’s no comparison to what all of the people who appeal their property taxes in Cook County do and what J.B. Pritzker did. There’s no comparison between the two,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy is accusing Pritzker of reclassifying his mansion to save more than $200,000 in property taxes. But again, Kennedy has sought his own property tax reductions using the system. Kennedy and Ra Joy are headed downstate to meet with voters.

The primary is in March.