By Don Bradley
Frank White won big enough in Kansas City on Tuesday to hold on to his job as Jackson County Executive.
The Democratic incumbent and former Royals all-star second baseman got 55 percent of the overall vote to defeat Republican challenger Theresa Cass Galvin.
“Once again, I am honored by the voters’ support in my continued leadership in Jackson County,” White said in a statement late Tuesday.
“I look forward to working with the many newly elected members of the County Legislature to continue our progress in Jackson County with so many exciting projects such as the new County Jail which recently broke ground,” continued White.
White’s victory margin over Galvin was wider than his primary win in August when he had to fight off a largely unknown challenger who had little money. The closeness of that race gave Galvin hope that White was vulnerable even in his own party.
But she says she ran into too much baseball.
“It’s tough going up against a hometown hero,” Galvin said Wednesday. “He won the World Series and that’s what people think of when they think of Frank White Jr. Even his campaign signs, look at them, there’s a baseball on them. Nothing about his qualifications.
“But the people have spoken and I respect that.”
Galvin, a member of the Jackson County Legislature, actually beat White in the suburban areas, but was unable to snag enough votes within the city limits of Kansas City, a traditional Democratic stronghold.
County wide, White got 117,778 votes to Galvin’s 95,217.
The Kansas City part of the vote was 60,922 for White to 23,057 for Galvin.
That means the more Republican-leaning suburban areas went for Galvin 72,160 to 56,856, a margin more in line with Missouri as a whole.
White’s win continues the streak of a Democrat holding the position since George Lehr became the first county executive in the early 1970s.
White, the grandson of sharecroppers, had held the job since 2016 when he was appointed after legal troubles forced Mike Sanders to resign. In 2016 White won election outright and in 2018 was re-elected to a full 4-year term.
But the margin of victory four years ago, 72 percent, was much greater than the one Tuesday.
Since 2018, White faced much criticism over a highly controversial property reassessment that saw some tax bills double or even triple. The increases meant some residents could not afford to stay in their homes. Also, a state audit alleged financial mismanagement of COMBAT, the county’s anti-violence effort. That issue led to White clashing with Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker.
White insisted during the campaign that both issues had been addressed.
Galvin used the audit and reassessment to campaign that White should not be trusted to be in charge of construction of a new 1,200-bed county detention center and improvements, or replacement, of the county courthouse. The price tag for both projects could well exceed $500 million.
Over the next four years, White will also lead the county’s discussion as to the future of the Chiefs and Royals.
Galvin said she is undecided about her future but did not rule out another race at some time.