State Senator Greg Razer and Legislator Jalen Anderson spoke at the February 18th South KC Democrat meeting. Photo courtesy Geoff Gerling

Worried about Republican influence, south KC Democrats form a club

“The November midterm should be a wake-up call.”

By Don Bradley

South Kansas City has long been solid ground for Democrats, but some in the party say the traditional outcome should no longer be taken for granted.

Republicans, they say, are ramping up election efforts to make inroads into Democratic strongholds across Jackson County, including Kansas City south of 75th Street to the Cass County line.

That’s the reason for the South Kansas City Democrats, a new group started by Laura Loyacono and Geoff Gerling, both Democratic Ward 22 committee members. 

They say it’s time to fight back against a Republican party that thinks south Kansas City is in play. Democrats still hold the elective offices and they won in November, but there were signs that Republicans no longer see the area as a lost cause.

Republicans have increased the push for voter registration in the area. They hold meetings with speakers. They worked polls in November. They handed out sample ballots.

“The November midterm should be a wake-up call,” Loyacono said. “Democrats are better at governing, but they are not always better at campaigning.”

Gerling, who formerly served as executive director of the Jackson County Democratic Committee, clearly sees more Republican energy in the southland corridor all the way north to Brookside.

“I credit the Republicans for doing the hard work,” he said.

The chair of the Jackson County Republican Committee said Democratic concern is spot on.

“We plan to challenge them on all fronts,” Mark Anthony Jones said. “If they want to keep strongholds, they better raise all the money they can.”

Can a Republican win south of 75th Street?

“We’re certainly going to try,” Jones said.

He said when he first started as county chair the party struggled to find candidates willing to challenge Democrats in the traditional strongholds. Not so anymore, he said, and that which Republicans want to do in south Kansas City is no different than Democrats making pushes in Republican strongholds in Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs.

“So we’re not just going to sit there and let that happen,” Jones said.

Gerling acknowledged the Democratic push into Lee’s Summit when he headed the party committee. 

“We won some races there and that was a high priority,” he said.

Loyacono said that because of redistricting and the country’s changing and volatile politics, south Kansas City Democrats have lost some traditional influence. Voter turnout dropped and new residents were not registering. The key to getting the influence back is through more vigorous participation, she said.

The goal of the new South Kansas City Democrats, which recently held its first meeting, is to identify issues people care about, get them involved, push voter registration, action plan and to acquaint voters with elected officials and candidates.

The new  group is a nod to an earlier time when political clubs were common. Initially, the plan was to appeal to members from neighborhoods close to State Line, but residents from Hickman Mills and Ruskin have also gotten involved.

For now, meetings are planned for 10 a.m. on the third Saturday of the month at the IBEW union hall at 301 E. 103rd Ter.

Loyacono said this is the time to fight back because of the extreme views of some Republicans toward banning books, trans kids, critical race theory and women’s reproductive rights.

Republicans in the Missouri House recently adopted a new dress code calling for women members to cover their arms.

“I think the average south Kansas City resident is more concerned with public schools, infrastructure and access to health care,” Loyacono said.

Jones, the Republican chair, acknowledged he’s got a few “Marjorie Taylor Greenes” on his board, and that some of those MAGA issues may play well in south Kansas City neighborhoods.


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