In front of a crowd of hundreds Saturday afternoon, Jason Kander emphasized his political experience in his run for Kansas City, Missouri, mayor.
The former Missouri secretary of state and Missouri representative officially launched his campaign at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, entering the crowded field of mayoral candidates in the June 2019 election.
The Kansas City native unsuccessfully ran against Republican Sen. Roy Blunt in the 2016 Senate race. Kander then founded Let America Vote, a political organization focused on addressing voter suppression.
It’s Kander’s past work that brought teacher Shelly Blay to the event. She said she wants him to continue the work of Mayor Sly James.
“I’m a huge Sly fan so I was just heartbroken that our time with him was coming to an end and so when Jason announced his candidacy I was giddy — that’s all I needed,” Blay said.
During the kick-off event, Kander credited his 2008 election to the Missouri House of Representatives to a boots-on-the-ground approach to campaigning.
“We know what the big issues are,” Kander said. “It’s building a new airport terminal. It’s the streetcar. It’s the GO bonds. It’s economic inequality. It’s schools. It’s crimes. It’s affordable housing.”
Lawyer Steven Brookreson said he is excited about Kander’s run and liked that Kander spoke about employment for people who were incarcerated and improving the city’s transportation. Brookreson said he hopes to see more details about Kander’s plan for transportation.
“It’s been something that’s generally talked about in generalities for a long time,” Brookreson said. “I want to see some real improvement so I’m hoping he comes out with a plan that’s substantive.”
Kander will have some time to do this before the April 2019 primary. Kander said that if he is elected, he wants to serve more than one term.
The campaign kick-off included endorsements from former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, Missouri House Democratic leader Gail McCann Beatty, Kansas City 6th District Councilman Kevin McManus and Kansas City 2nd District Councilwoman Teresa Loar.
In her endorsement, Loar referenced Kander’s time as an intelligence officer in the Army National Guard in Afghanistan. Loar worked at the USAID Office of Infrastructure in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“So when we got back to Kansas City, we figured if we can handle Kabul, Afghanistan, we can probably handle city government in Kansas City,” Loar said.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter @avivaokeson.