© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A former county legislator and a KC Tenants organizer are vying for Kansas City's 6th District seat

 Two side-by-side pictures, the one on the left of a man, Dan Tarwater, in a light blue KC Royals polo, wearing Sony over-ear headphones and speaking into a microphone in a radio studio. On the right, another man, Johnathan Duncan, wears a light blue long-sleeve button-down chambray shirt while wearing the same headphones and also speaking into a microphone in the same radio studio, but from a different angle.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Dan Tarwater, left, is running for the in-district City Council seat representing the sixth district against Johnathan Duncan, right.

Voters in the 6th District, which includes the Country Club Plaza, Brookside and Waldo, will choose between Dan Tarwater and Johnathan Duncan to fill the open seat during the June 20 general election.

Kansas City’s 6th District stretches from the Country Club Plaza to the Cass County line. In the city’s upcoming City Council elections, former Jackson County legislator Dan Tarwater and veterans’ nonprofit worker Johnathan Duncan are vying for the open seat.

The race represents a broader political tension in Kansas City between progressives who reject the current status quo and want a Kansas City that centers the needs of its most vulnerable residents, and those who advocate for more moderate solutions.

Duncan and Tarwater were the top two vote-getters in the city’s April primary. Tarwater received 45% of the vote, while Duncan received 24%.

Tarwater served on the Jackson County Legislature from 1994 to 2022. He says he wants to bring his experience in the legislature to the City Council.

“Our crime rate is out of hand right now,” Tarwater said. “Our streets, sidewalks, roads — they all need work.”

Duncan is an Army combat veteran who served in Iraq. He’s now the Administrative Operations Director at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a nonprofit veterans' service organization. Duncan has been organizing with citywide tenant union KC Tenants for the past three years. He says everyone who lives in Kansas City deserves to stay.

“When we look at the needs in our city, a lot of them can't be addressed unless you have a home,” Duncan said. “There are people who talk about housing people in jails and that doesn't seem right to me.”

Duncan’s endorsements include KC Tenants Power, the political lobbying arm of KC Tenants; the Kansas City chapter of Our Revolution; Pro-Choice Missouri; the Sierra Club and Teamsters Local 41.

Tarwater is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, Firefighters Local 42 and Northland Strong.

Duncan says the city should publicly fund housing and rent it at below market rate, instead of giving city money and tax breaks to developers charging rents that aren’t affordable to many residents.

“We need to be investing in our communities to actually build housing that people can afford,” he said.

Tarwater said he supports “helping people help themselves.”

“Right now we need to get people back to work,” Tarwater said. “We need to get people working on different construction job sites, good paying union jobs.”

Duncan and Tarwater also disagreed on reparations for Black Kansas Citians. Mayor Quinton Lucas recently appointed 15 members to the Mayor’s Commission on Reparations to study what reparations for Black Kansas City residents would look like.

“I think that when you look at the wealth transfer that happened from our Black communities, we need to reinvest in those communities,” Duncan said. “So I would support reparations and direct stimulus to our Black communities.”

Tarwater did not voice support for direct payments to Black residents.

“I think you can help by teaching a person how to fish instead of giving them fish, so I would much rather work on it through affordable loans and other things that can help them start an independent business,” he said.

Duncan said the city should invest in more community resources instead of jails. Kansas City is currently debating whether to spend $1.5 million to design a new municipal jail.

Duncan doesn’t think the police department should hire more officers, and believes the city should fund programs that focus on the root causes of crime. He supports reinstating the requirement that KCPD officers live in Kansas City; the Board of Police Commissioners passed a policy last year allowing KCPD officers to live in Kansas.

“We need jobs with thriving wages. We need housing,” Duncan said. “That's why I got involved with KC Tenants – because providing housing and actually truly affordable housing and stabilizing our neighborhoods is violence prevention. Our communities need more opportunities.”

Tarwater said the KCPD needs more officers. He said he doesn’t support a residency rule because of how difficult it is to fill positions.

“We need to have the officers there because they need to be out on patrol,” he said. “We need to do the foot patrol. We may even bring back the horse patrol downtown and make our streets safer.”

The sixth in-district seat, as well as all 11 other City Council seats, are up for election June 20. Kansas City voters in Jackson County can check their voter registration and find their polling place at the election board website. If you live in Clay County, go to the website of the Board of Election Commissioners. Platte County voters can check the Board of Elections website.

Stay Connected
As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
As a producer for Up To Date, I create sound-rich talk show segments about the individuals and communities that call Kansas City home. Whether it’s a poet, a business owner or a local lawmaker, I seek out diverse voices to help break down the biggest stories of the day. After listening to the show, I want Up To Date listeners to feel informed and empowered to make decisions in their daily lives. You can reach me at claudiab@kcur.org
When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.