Davis and Boykin endorse Democratic candidate Chris Kennedy for Illinois governor. | MICHAEL ROMAIN/Staff

At a church on Chicago’s West Side on Nov. 19, U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis and Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) both enthusiastically announced that they are endorsing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy.

Boykin said his endorsement of the businessman, who is the son of Sen. Bobby Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, was premised, in part, on Kennedy’s eight-point plan to deal with the Chicago area’s gun violence.

“We need leadership who understands something about this horrific gun violence in the city and the state of Illinois and I believe that Chris Kennedy is the person,” Boykin said. “His father was killed by gun violence. The son of his running mate was killed by gun violence, so they truly understand this on a level that none of us will understand it.”

Kennedy’s running mate, Ra Joy, the executive director of Change Illinois, an advocacy organization that focuses on government reform, lost his 23-year-old son, Xavier Joy, in June on the city’s South Side.

Davis touted his long relationship with the Kennedy family during his two decades in Congress and even as a young man coming upon the voting age.

“I endorse Chris Kennedy because I have been inspired and motivated by the Kennedy family,” Davis said. “I voted, probably for the first time, for John Fitzgerald Kennedy to be president of the United States. I was at that age. I was at the age where I was getting involved and becoming knowledgeable.”

Davis praised Sen. Edward Kennedy for his work in healthcare, saying that the late senator had done more for improving the nation’s modern healthcare system “than anyone I know.”

The congressman said that he also had a close working relationship with Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Edward Kennedy’s son, in the area of mental health legislation.

“I brought Patrick Kennedy right here to this neighborhood,” Davis recalled. “We spent a weekend visiting drug recovery homes and people who were mentally ill. When Patrick was in Congress, nobody did more to advance the cause of mental health than Patrick — my friend, a guy who I worked with, same committee, same interest.”

Davis portrayed Kennedy as the candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial race who isn’t aligned with special interests.

“I’ve got a lot of friends who want to endorse Chris Kennedy, but they’re scared,” Davis said. “You know the real deal is if you’re scared, play dead. If you can’t represent yourself, how in the world will you ever be able to represent anybody else?”

Returning the favor, Chris Kennedy vouchsafed Davis’s relationship with the Kennedy family and praised his work in Congress.

“Congressman Davis has worked with four members of my family,” Kennedy said, adding that Davis worked with his older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy II, to “force the big banks to reinvest in communities and neighborhoods across the United States.”

Kennedy said that, in addition to working with his uncle, Ted Kennedy, and his cousin, Patrick, in Congress, Davis also pushed him when he was chairman of the board of the University of Illinois.

“Davis pushed me when I was chairman of the board of the University of Illinois to reinvest in [the Mile Square Health Center],” Kennedy said. “We created a state-of-the-art facility that’s the nicest in the country because [Davis] believed, and I believe, that no matter where you live you should have access to great healthcare.”

Kennedy also recalled Davis pushing him to make the University of Illinois at Chicago a Hispanic-serving institution “and at the same time he pushed us to ensure that more African American students from Chicago Public Schools would enroll” at schools in the U of I system.

Kennedy framed his candidacy as anti-establishment, in the vein of his father’s famous battles against Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson, “who was sending primarily people of color to fight the wrong war in Southeast Asia.” Kennedy said that he encouraged Davis to hold him to his campaign promises.

“[Davis] said to me, ‘Your father, your uncle, were willing to send in federal troops to improve the educational opportunities for people of color in the United States, how far will you go?’ I said I’ll go that far,” Kennedy said.

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