By Tyler Schneider
A clash for the Sixth District seat on the Kansas City City Council ended in an upset that saw KC Tenants organizer and VFW Operations Director Johnathan Duncan earn 56.50% (6,884 votes) to longtime Jackson County Legislator and businessman Dan T. Tarwater III’s 43.5% (5,299).
In a five-way April 4 primary, Tarwater, 59, had polled at 45.54% to Duncan’s 24%. Duncan, 37, attributes his success to door-to-door efforts, which he says encompassed 6,000 total doors knocked.
“We made a concerted effort to knock on as many doors as we could between April 5 and June 19. It was that ground game that made the difference, and you can see it evident in the amount of yard signs in the district,” Duncan said.
Tarwater, who was voted into county office by the south Kansas City constituency for seven terms and heavily favored to win, was surprised along with those who endorsed him. “In the end, I do know that my wife and I along with our team did work our butts off and not sure what more we could have done,” he said. “I have enjoyed representing and supporting the people of South Kansas City for over 28 years. I love our city and will continue to be active and engaged so that I can be of service to the people.”
The Sixth District race was one of the most contentious races. South Kansas Citians found their mailboxes flooded with flyers from groups associated with each candidate attacking the other.
Duncan, a Newton, Kansas, native who resides in the 49/63 Neighborhood Coalition, believes his campaign tapped into a lesser-heard portion of the newly reorganized Sixth District that reaches from Martin City to Westport.
Coming out ahead in a competitive race in which two very qualified candidates vied for a single seat, Duncan says he understands the necessity of representing the entirety of his constituent base in the Sixth District.
“We say in community organizing that the people closest to the problem are closest to the solution, and that looks exactly the same way when we try to govern,” Duncan said. “We need to actually be listening, listening to the voices who are crying out to be heard in the southernmost portion of the district, who largely felt ignored by their city government representatives.”
These issues include more widely-appealing improvements to city services, such as sidewalks and street repair. Duncan—who used his personal phone number on campaign handouts and mailers—added that his work will involve “simply having city council people who will return an email or telephone. I look forward to doing that.”
“We are missing out on the genius of our residents every time we don’t listen to them when we’re crafting policy solutions,” Duncan said.
Finally, as a leader with KC Tenants, Duncan looks to bridge the gap between the perception of housing issues and what he sees as a much broader reality. Duncan’s highest priority during the campaign was to push for “municipal social housing that is not for profit, permanently affordable and controlled by its residents.”
“As many of our seniors are seeing, affordable housing is a poor and working class issue. And for those individuals on a set income or with limited income that is not increasing at the rate of the cost of their housing, the feeling is that we have more in common with one another, the poor and working class people, than some may think,” Duncan said.
Other South KC races:
Kansas City Mayor:
Quinton Lucas (80.63%, 33,266 votes) won his second term for mayor over perennial contender Clay Chastain (19.37%, 7,993). Lucas, the 55th mayor at 38 years of age, had originally been elected to his first term in August of 2019, succeeding Sly James. Chastain, whom The Telegraph had profiled in our previous issue, had ran in the past as an alternative candidate with specific ideas on issues such as transportation and led the charge to preserve Union Station in the 1990s.
1st District At-Large:
O’Neill is the former editor of The Labor Beacon, an influential union publication which he had helmed since the early 1990s. Smith, the wife of a 26-year KCPD veteran, took a harder stance on supporting law enforcement, although O’Neill had also advocated for both supporting the KCPD as well as reducing crime through interventional community measures.
2nd District At-Large:
In the closest race of the night, separated by just 1,304 votes, Lindsay French (51.61%, 20,937) held off a hard charge from the youngest candidate in the fold and KC Tenants leader, Jenay Manley (48.39%, 19,633).
French, a graphic designer and communications specialist and the Chair of the Planning and Development Committee for the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce, succeeds Teresa Loar in the seat. In the primary, with a third challenger in the race, French netted 47.12% of the vote over Manley’s 34.42%.
The latter’s performance on June 20, despite falling short by the slimmest of margins, is impressive in that she did win overall in Jackson County, with French taking 8,321 combined in Platte and Clay counties to Manley’s 4,930.
3rd District At-Large:
Patterson Hazley, an educational psychologist and UMKC researcher, had gained enough backing heading into the June 20 election to prompt Ellington to admit he was on the outside looking in on his own reelection chances.
A first-term incumbent, now again a private citizen, Ellington is a former (term-limited) District 22 state representative who had at one point served as the Minority Whip.
4th District At-Large:
A lawyer with seven years of experience serving with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Special Victims Unit, Crispin Rea (56.79%, 22,686) managed to hold off Justin M. Short (43.21, 17,261) for the 4th District At-Large seat.
This was the youngest overall race being contested, with Rea at 37 years of age and Short, the son of a former Platte County Commissioner and an LGBTQ Commission member with the city, at 34.
At-Large 5th District:
A familiar political name for South Kansas City, Darrell Curls (56%, 22,643) earned a ten-plus point win over BikeWalkKC Director Michael Kelley (44%, 17,808) following an exciting primary in which the pair had drawn a much closer 35.6% and 33.6%, respectively to Teresa Cass-Galvin’s 30.75%.
Cass-Galvin, a former Jackson County Legislator, had run a fairly successful underdog campaign against County Executive Frank White back in November, and her absence on the June 20 ballot seems to have bolstered Curls’ cross-appeal to moderate and conservative voters this time around.
At-Large 6th District:
Incumbent Andrea Bough (71.71%, 28,737) drew a similar split of votes as she had in the primary to end the campaign of former public school educator, Jill Sasse (28.29%, 11,336). Bough, a Brookside resident with a law degree from UMKC, has served on the city council since August of 2019,