A Guide to Who’s Who in the KC Mayoral Race
By Samuel Ast
Kansas City is just days away from the first round of voting set to take place on April 2. As of today, no single candidate appears to have a firm lead, which makes this primary election all the more significant and competitive.
The two candidates that receive the most votes will continue their campaigns until June 18, the day the city will decide, once and for all, who will be mayor for the next four years.
Currently, there are 11 total candidates vying for that position, six of whom now serve on the City Council. In addition to the big names that are familiar to those following the race–such as Councilman Quinton Lucas, Councilwoman Jolie Justus, Councilman Scott Taylor, Councilwoman Allisia Canady, and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner, there are also a few local businessmen who have been among the top-tier of contenders throughout the race, and who occupy strong positions that threaten to potentially steal sizable portions of the primary vote.
On that list, one finds individuals like small-business owner Phil Glyn and local attorney Steve Miller. Miller has arguably received the most high-profile endorsement of the race, so far–aside from Jason Kander who endorsed Councilwoman Justus after announcing the termination of his candidacy back in October 2018. Miller’s endorsement came from Tim Kaine, a United States Senator, and 2016 Vice Presidential nominee.
Most of these candidates have been campaigning since as early as June of last year, and have attended countless forums held across the city since then to discuss where they stand on various issues that remain top-of-mind to area voters.
Predicting who will be Kansas City’s next mayor is an incredibly difficult task, so too is forecasting the outcome of the April primary. That said, below is a list of the most competitive mayoral candidates in the race. They are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot.
Scott Taylor: Councilman Taylor represents the city’s 6th district, which predominantly includes areas located in south Kansas City. Taylor serves on the Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. In 2018, Taylor unveiled a “Revive the East Side” campaign, focused on spurring economic development in blighted, economically distressed areas through infrastructure improvements and the use of tax incentives. Taylor was behind efforts to transform the Wornall Village Shopping Center by leveraging public, private funds. Taylor has been endorsed by two electrical workers unions: Local 124, and Local 53.
Alissia Canady: Councilwoman Canady represents the 5th district, which covers eastern, southern parts of the city. Before serving on the City Council, Canady was an assistant prosecuting attorney for Jackson County. Canady serves as Chairwoman of the Neighborhood and Public Safety Committee, where she has made improving community relations with police a central goal. She is running on promoting equitable economic development city wide (through her initiative Grow KC Together), increasing access to affordable housing, and addressing gun violence. Additionally, the councilwoman opposes renaming the Paseo Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Canady was also a supporter of a controversial 2017 vote to privatize sidewalks in Westport in an attempt to enhance public safety. Canady hasn’t publicly unveiled any campaign endorsements.
Quinton Lucas: Councilman Lucas represents the city’s 3rd district, which covers eastern portions of Kansas City. Lucas is a private attorney who teaches at the University of Kansas School of Law. Lucas serves on the Housing Committee, where he has established a record of advocating for increased access to affordable housing. He was instrumental in the ongoing push to establish a Housing Trust Fund, that would provide financial assistance to home renovations, and potentially even grant mortgage loans, to individuals in distressed neighborhoods. Additionally, Lucas co-sponsored an ordinance that would rename the Paseo to reflect the name of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lucas also led the opposition to the pedestrian ordinance proposed last August which would bar individuals from panhandling on roadsides near intersections. Lucas has received the endorsement of Freedom Inc., a major African American political organization.
Steve Miller: Miller is a private attorney in Kansas City, and has previously served on the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. According to his campaign website, Miller wants to tackle the city’s education and crime crises by “draw[ing] on the assets of government, nonprofits and the business community to make an impact using a multi-dimensional approach.” Miller has received the endorsements of Tim Kaine and Forward KC, an organization that advocates on behalf of the Northland.
Scott Wagner: Wagner is currently the Mayor Pro Tem, and represents the Northland. Wagner worked to implement the rental inspection program, brought forward by a community initiative petition in August 2018, known as the Healthy Homes Rental Inspection Program, that provides health and safety regulations to residential rental properties in Kansas City. Wagner also supported a controversial vote in 2017 to privatize sidewalks in Westport. Wagner has been endorsed by Iron Workers Local 10 and Jackson County Legislator Dan Tarwater, among others.
Phil Glynn: Glynn is a small business owner in the Crossroads arts district, and formerly served as a member of Kansas City’s TIF Commission, an arm of the KC Economic Development Corporation that awards incentives to developers, before being removed following a vote against the proposal for a project that was to move the headquarters of the architecture firm, BNIM, to the Crossroads using tax increment financing during the renovation process. Glynn has been endorsed by Missouri state representative Wes Rogers.
Jermaine Reed: Councilman Reed was elected in 2011 to represent the 3rd district, becoming the youngest person to serve on the City Council. Reed was instrumental in the 18th and Vine renewal project. Reed chairs the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, and has strongly advocated for KC-CORE project, Connecting our Riverfront to Everyone, which is a central component of ongoing efforts to extend the streetcar further down Main street and along the Riverfront. Reed has not publicly released any campaign endorsements.
Jolie Justus: Councilwoman Justus represents the city’s 4th district, and also works at the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon. She serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has played a major role in expanding the streetcar, and spearheading the KCI single-terminal project. Justus was the first openly gay member of the Missouri State Senate and has received the endorsement of former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes and former Secretary of State Jason Kander.