By Don Bradley
Clay Chastain has been putting himself and petition initiatives on Kansas City ballots for nearly three decades.
June 20th, the beat goes on.
This time, Chastain is challenging Mayor Quinton Lucas. Let’s get right to the questions.
How’s the weather in Bedford, Va.?
“A very nice spring day,” Chastain said a morning last week.
He lives there. In Bedford, Va., a town which is not in Kansas City.
And he’s been living there for years.
But he meets the Kansas City charter’s residency requirement _ his sister’s house, and he travels here enough to qualify as a resident.
He’s a legal candidate so he doesn’t see any problem with his running and said he will return to Kansas City full time if he wins.
Still, some voters might wonder why someone who lives primarily in another town, in another time zone, would run for mayor here.
Chastain has an answer for that. He’s given it so often over the years it flows like Miranda rights.
Family obligations. He is a father and grandfather. He has family in Kansas City and in Bedford, where his youngest daughter is in school, and he needs to be there for her.
“But my heart is connected to Kansas City,” he said.
He knows some people think he shouldn’t be running and dismiss him as a gadfly. He’s a big underdog and has been mocked in the media. Lucas has pretty much ignored him and did not respond with comment for this story.
Chastain has little political support and is not raising any money _ two things that often go together.
“But I’m not beholden to anybody,” he said. “Even with no media coverage, with the albatross around my neck that I’m a part-time resident, I still managed to get almost 20 percent of the vote.
“So, see, I’m not crazy,” he said.
The question was not asked.
Chastain, an electrical engineer who spent a career at major firms, said if he loses the race with Lucas, he will never run for office again.
Officially, Chastain got 18.5 percent of the vote in the April primary. Lucas, the incumbent mayor, got 81.4 and is highly favored to win a second term.
Because of Lucas’ perceived strength as a candidate, the primary was not hotly contested. The candidate who finished fourth got 9 votes.
Gadfly or not, Chastain got more than 8,000 votes, enough for second place and a spot on the June ballot. He has name recognition. In 2020, he ran for congress. In 2015, he ran for mayor.
Chastain, often called a “transportation activist” in the media, is known for his repeated efforts to get light rail in Kansas City, and he remains the only person to ever get a light-rail referendum approved by voters. That was in 2006 and the Kansas City Council overturned the decision, calling the plan to connect KCI with the Kansas City Zoo “unfeasible.”
In 1995, he led a petition drive to save Union Station from demolition. The Kansas City Council refused to put the question on the ballot. Chastain won the legal fight, but by then the election had passed.
Union Station, however, still stands.
This time around, the centerpiece of Chastain’s platform is a 34-mile monorail running from KCI to Bannister Road in south Kansas City.
He insists that if voters reject the plan and his candidacy, that would be it for him.
“You need to be successful or try something else and I need to accept that,” he said.
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For more information about Chastain’s campaign, go to chastain4mayor.com.