By Max Goodwin
Three democrats compete for the newly redistricted county’s 1st District seat which follows the state line from Blue Ridge Blvd to the Missouri River. Republican Christina McDonough-Hunt is running unopposed on the ballot.
In preparation for the election and potentially becoming a legislator in the upcoming term, Gerling has been diving deep into learning how the legislature works by attending meetings and asking questions to current members.
He is the only candidate for the 1st District democratic primary who is a current resident of south Kansas City. Gerling has been Executive Director for the Jackson County Democratic Committee for the past six years and he felt it was time to seek a new position.
“I felt that my experience with county politics and policy would be well put to use to specifically represent south Kansas City,” Gerling said. “I am the South Kansas City candidate in this race.”
There are a number of issues with the appeals process for property tax assessment that Gerling wants to change, including how often the board of appeals meets. People need to make it to those meetings in order to have their appeal heard, so they should be meeting more than once a month, Gerling said. Overall he thinks the appeals process needs to be sped up for residents who feel they received an unfair property assessment.
As the son and grandson of union truck drivers, Manny Abarca is heavily endorsed by local trade unions. He serves as Treasurer for the Kansas City Public Schools and the Jackson County Democratic Committee.
Abarca currently resides in the Historic Northeast and serves as Treasurer on the Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education. He grew up in south Kansas City and says he was in the first seventh grade class of the inaugural year of Martin City K-8 School and graduated from Grandview High School.
He says his focus in policy as a Jackson County legislator would be making sure people earn a fair wage. He points to a prevailing wage much higher than $15 per hour and says the construction project for a new county detention center is an example of where that can happen.
“The trades are ways to survive and rebuild the middle class in my opinion,” Abraca said. “The county has the possibility to construct a new jail, obviously, but they also have an opportunity to rebuild our local middle class. The way they do that is by setting a high rate of pay, a prevailing wage for all of those jobs and making sure that we’re compliant to that.”
Abarca says his experience as treasurer of a $360 million taxing jurisdiction for KCPS gives him unique qualifications in managing tax dollars compared to his opponents.
“I’m the only one in this race who has direct experience governing tax dollars,” Abarca said. “I had a front row seat to watch the impact of the rising tax increase for property tax, and got to hear both ends of discussions and I got to appoint a Board of Equalization person through the KCPS.”
In 2020, Justice Horn was helping lead the Black Lives Matter protests in Kansas City and saw that it was the county government that stopped a statue of Andrew Jackson from being removed in front of city hall.
“If they can’t make a decision on statues, what else are they not making a decision on?” Horn says he thought at the time.
He began looking into decisions being made by the Jackson County Legislature. He says that led to him eventually deciding to run for county legislature.
At just 24 years old he says his youthfulness and energy are needed in the county legislature. Horn currently serves on a number of boards and committees, including as Board Director for the Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County.
He says he would rely on listening to the community as county legislator. His first priority is changing tax assessment policy.
“We’re going to create a tax policy through listening, with experts there. We’re going to cut out policy that if I win this thing will be introduced day one,” Horn said.