Jason Kander spoke to the National Farmers Union conference in his official capacity as the head of a voting rights nonprofit. Yet Monday’s hometown address by the Democrat, which ranged from U.S. trade policy to college affordability, sounded more like a stump speech.
Kander didn’t directly address whether he’d run for office again, telling reporters he’s “focused on making sure we’re still able to hold elections.”
“Then maybe one day I’ll be in one” he added.
The former secretary of state lost to Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt in the 2016 election by 2.8 percentage points (78,000 votes), notable considering President Donald Trump won Missouri with about 56 percent of the vote. (The National Farmers Union endorsed Kander during this campaign.)
Shortly thereafter, Kander started Let America Vote, which works to fight voter ID laws that have been passed across the country, including Missouri and Kansas. Missourians approved a voter ID law in November 2016, the same election Kander lost.
He kept the pitch to the NFU on voting rights short, explaining the nonprofit’s mission, telling the crowd that “the civil rights movement has not ended” and answering some questions.
But the windup to it was wide-ranging and touched on a number of Democratic talking points, falling in line with Kander’s appearances around the country that may hint at his future political aspirations.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the one that received the most applause was a criticism of Trump’s proposal to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and his insistence on renegotiating NAFTA. Even Monday morning, Trump tweeted that NAFTA “has been a bad deal for U.S.A.,” and that “Canada must treat our farmers much better.”
“Look, the countries that provide the most foreign steel, you already know this, are the countries that are the most likely to buy our agricultural products. They are the biggest buyers of it,” Kander said. “It doesn't make any sense to start a war with the entire world on trade.”
And for what it’s worth, the Kansas City Royals fan was jokingly optimistic about a season without Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain: “They’re going to win every game. Every game.”
Erica Hunzinger is the editor of Harvest Public Media and a contributor to KCUR 89.3. You can reach on on Twitter @ehunzinger.