KC Tenants Power host candidate forum before April 4 primary election

At-large candidates take the stage for a panel at the KC Tenants Power forum Feb. 25.

At-large candidates take the stage for a panel at the KC Tenants Power forum Feb. 25 // Courtesy of KC Tenants Power Twitter

KC Tenants Power hosted their first-ever candidate forum Feb. 25 at the Mohart Center to meet political hopefuls before the primary on April 4. It was also in preparation for KC Tenants Power to decide who the organization will back in their second round of endorsements. 

KC Tenants Power was formed in 2022 and is a sibling organization of the citywide tenant union KC Tenants. This organization is focused on providing real, affordable housing for people in Kansas City by winning governing power that will support their mission. 

Governing power is when we, the people, call the shots. Governing power is when we have the ability to make and shape decisions that impact our lives, our neighborhoods, and our city,” Dajanae Moreland, a KC Tenants Power leader and emcee of the forum says. “The only way we make our vision for Kansas City the inevitable reality is if we organize. I believe a better Kansas City is possible, if we’re willing to fight for it.” 

This was one of the most well-organized and truly educational forums I have ever attended. The room was filled with passionate, welcoming people that were ready to answer any questions I had.

Some wore yellow and red KC Tenants Power shirts, sporting sayings like “Mess with THE BULL, you get THE HORNS,” and others not involved with the organization came knowing that this was a safe place to discuss and learn more about the election.

Fifteen candidates participated and the 270 attendees were invited not only to listen, but to give feedback during the forum. Each person was given green and red cards to hold when someone said something they did or didn’t agree with.

Audience practices at the KC Tenants Power forum Feb. 25.

Audience practices responding to candidates at the KC Tenants Power forum. // Photo by Sarah Moore

The audience was also given the option to hold up a “W” when the candidates were talking in circles, or as they described, saying “word salad.”

Let me say, this was not a group of people that was about to sit back when their voices needed to be heard. The audience showed the candidates what they thought through the whole forum. Adding in the coined KC Tenants Power “that ain’t right,” whenever the cards weren’t enough.

The forum even opened with a civics lesson presented by one of the organization leaders to inform everyone about how the upcoming election is structured. Then, the forum was split into three parts: a panel with the six in-district candidates, a Q&A with Mayor Quinton Lucas, and a concluding panel with the at-large candidates.

The six in-district candidates who attended were Melissa Robinson (incumbent, 3rd in-district), Sheri Hall (3rd in-district), Eric Bunch (incumbent, 4th in-district), Crissy Dastrup (4th in-district), Johnathan Duncan (6th in-district) and Michael Schuckman (6th in-district). 

The eight at-large candidates in attendance were Jenay Manley (2nd district at large), Brandon Ellington (incumbent, 3rd district at large), Melissa Patterson Hazley (3rd district at large), Jessica Blubaugh (4th district at large), Justin Short (4th district at large), Michael Kelly (5th district at large), Darrell Curls (5th district at large), and Andrea Bough (incumbent, 6th district at large). 

Jenay Manley and Johnathan Duncan have already received endorsements from KC Tenants Power. This endorsement means that the candidates have the support of over 5,000 members and allies.

For both panels candidates were brought to the stage backed by Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”  They were asked questions by poor and working-class tenants and allies in the crowd, and each had two minutes to reply. This was followed by a lightning round where candidates could only hold up a green or red card to answer.

On both panels all candidates held up green cards when asked if they would commit to working with KC Tenants to redefine “affordable” rent. All candidates also committed to keeping public transportation free and do not support giving more than 25% of the city’s budget to the police department.

These were met with enthusiastic green cards reflected in the crowd. However, there were some moments of turmoil. 

For example, all candidates except for Justin Short, committed to ban source of income discrimination in rental applications. Also, when asked if they support a downtown stadium, Andrea Bough abstained, 4th at large candidates voted yes, and, all others said no.

Leader Valiera Brooks-Davis interviews Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Leader Valiera Brooks-Davis interviews Mayor Quinton Lucas. // Courtesy of KC Tenants Power Twitter

Red cards and a few “that ain’t rights” flew from the crowd after seeing these mixed-panel answers.

Between the panels, KC Tenants Power leader Valiera Brooks-Davis interviewed Mayor Quinton Lucas, who is running for reelection. He answered questions about his experience working with KC Tenants during his first term, what he feels were some missed opportunities, and what his solutions are to the housing crisis in KC.

The audience was asked to keep their cards and “W’s” down for this interview and to keep their ears open. They obliged, but couldn’t keep from enthusiastically nodding their heads or expressing opinions to their neighbors.

One of the questions Mayor Lucas was asked was if he thought his council did enough to address the housing crisis in his last term. In response he mentioned the pride he has for passing the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and seeing the general support for policies like this growing while he has been involved. 

However, where his council “had fallen short” was in the aid they provided for the unhoused community and how they are building up the city. He says that even though growth is good for the city, they need to do a better job building low-income housing instead of large infrastructures that take away homes. Issues he wishes to address if he is reelected.

For those that could not make it to the forum and want to see more highlights, KC Tenants Power live-tweeted the entire event. Follow their Twitter for announcements about events in the future.

KC Tenants Power will announce their second round of endorsements March 7. In time for people to review the candidates and make an informed decision in the April 4 primary election.

The last day to register to vote is March 8, and you can check your voter registration status on the Kansas City Election Board website or the Missouri Secretary of State website.

The two candidates with the most votes in each race will move on to the primary election held June 20.

Categories: Politics