Kansas City election recap: Lucas wins, incentives cap loses, and a new city council on the way

Quinton Lucas for Mayor

Kansas City voters decided on Tuesday that Quinton Lucas will be the next mayor of Kansas City, Missouri — and it wasn’t close.

Lucas bested his opponent and fellow Kansas City Council member Jolie Justus 59 to 41 percent.

During his campaign, Lucas, a 34-year-old first-term councilman, championed issues like affordable housing and safe neighborhoods, emphasizing his personal experience of growing up in poverty and at times being homeless in Kansas City’s most distressed neighborhoods. Lucas’ campaign also drew contrasts between his vision for the city and that of Mayor Sly James, who was termed out after eight years. He said he’d put more focus on the entire city’s needs, as opposed to James’ downtown-centric approach. Lucas also criticized James’ lack of transparency, citing his attempted behind-closed-doors bidding of the new airport.

Meanwhile, Justus — a first-term councilwoman, attorney, and former state senator — was endorsed by James and shared many of his views for the city.

Turns out, it was a change election.

North of the river, Lucas lost by three percentage points to Justus. But his margin south of the river, where about two-thirds of the city’s votes are cast, was fully 2 to 1.

Half of the 12-member city council will be made up of new faces come August.

Incumbents Heather Hall in the 1st District, Teresa Loar in the 2nd District at-large, and Kevin McManus in the 6th District all ran unopposed and kept their seats on the council. New to the council, Kevin O’Neill ran unopposed for the 1st District at-large seat.

In the 2nd District, incumbent Dan Fowler kept his seat in a 69 to 31 percent victory against Kevin McEvoy.

The 3rd District at-large seat was won by Brandon Ellington, who will be vacating his second-term seat as a Democrat in the Missouri House of Representatives to join the council. Ellington came out just two percentage points ahead of local pastor, Wallace Hartsfield II, at 51 to 49 percent.

The president of the Black Healthcare Coalition, Melissa Robinson, will serve the 3rd District. She edged out Joseph “Joey Cuts” Thomas, a Kansas City barber, 56 to 44 percent.

Incumbent Kathryn Shields will serve a second term, having held the seat for 4th District at-large. Shields enjoyed a landslide victory over her challenger, Robert Westfall, winning the seat 77 to 23 percent.

In the 4th District seat, BikeWalkKC cofounder Eric Bunch came out on top. He beat Kansas City firefighter and attorney Geoff Jolley in a squeaker — just 212 votes.

In the 5th District, incumbent Lee Barnes, Jr. retained his at-large seat by defeating the president and CEO of the Twelfth Street Development Corporation, Dwayne Williams, 62 to 39 percent.

Ryana Parks-Shaw, who serves on the Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care Association Board and previously worked for the Missouri Department of Health, will represent the 5th District. She beat her challenger, Edward Bell, II, who represents the 5th District on the Public Improvements Advisory Committee, 69 to 31 percent.

Real estate and land use attorney Andrea Bough will represent the 6th District at-large. She bested her opponent, Stacey Johnson-Cosby, a real-estate broker and founder of the South Kansas City Alliance, 62 to 38 percent.

Tax breaks for developers aren’t very popular these days, but didn’t stop voters from overwhelmingly rejecting a measure that would have limited the city’s ability to hand out those incentives.

If Question 1 had passed, the measure would have capped at 50 percent the amount of property taxes the city can abate for developers on a development project. Supporters of the ballot initiative pointed out the abuses of instruments like TIF, which are intended to spur development in blighted parts of the city but have lately been used to subsidize luxury developments in desirable parts of the city. But opponents of the measure said that an overall cap would not only limit luxury projects the city could incentivize but would also limit incentives for the economically distressed parts of the city where supporters of the measure want to see development.

Neither Quinton Lucas or Jolie Justus supported Question 1. Justus said it would be smarter to add in more requirements to diversify the type of incentives the city has instead of a one-size-fits-all cap. Lucas noted that the city hasn’t fully adhered to the 75 percent cap he authored and helped pass in 2016. He said the city still needs time to see how his ordinance is working before adding further limitations.

The citizens agreed, voting down the proposal 65 to 35 percent.

Lucas and the new Kansas City Council will take office on August 1.

On Twitter: @ByEmilyAPark.

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