The one true guide to the 2019 Kansas City mayoral primary

If previous Kansas City elections are any indication, turnout in this year’s mayoral primary will be abysmal.

Just 50,000 people could be bothered to come out for the last competitive mayoral primary, in 2011, and only slightly more (57,000) dragged their asses to the polls in 2007. 

This year, 11 candidates are jockeying for votes, hoping to be the one to replace outgoing Mayor Sly James. (James, who has served for eight years, is termed out.) Among other things, this means that a candidate doesn’t need to round up that many votes to advance to the general election in June, when the top two vote-getters from the April election square off. With such a crowded field, nobody’s really sure which two candidates are going to emerge from the primary. We know who has the most money, and who the long shots are, and who we personally like the best — but anybody who claims to know how this will all shake out is just guessing. It’s a crapshoot. 

To help you better understand the dynamics of the race, we’ve dug through everybody’s campaign finance records, reviewed comments they’ve previously given to newspaper and TV outlets, and monitored their social media accounts. We’ve also interviewed each of the candidates. (Or, at least, all the serious candidates. As of this writing, Vincent Lee has no website, has not attended any mayoral forums, and has raised no money, according to the Missouri Ethics Commission. Clay Chastain does not even live in Kansas City.)

Hopefully, you will find useful our resulting guide to the primary. And if you are interested in delving deeper, we’ve also broken out the candidates’ responses by issue for affordable housing, development incentives, crime, pensions, and connecting the city

And don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, April 2.  


Currently: KCMO Councilwoman (4th District), elected in 2015; attorney

Previous experience: Eight years in Missouri legislature, two as Senate Minority Leader 

Assets: Has raised way more money than anybody else; is seen as the frontrunner

Liabilities: Chair of the airport committee, where things have been, shall we say, a bit turbulent

Weakness that is actually a strength: Justus has taken some heat for dropping out of the race after Jason Kander announced he was running, then jumping back in after Kander dropped out. We think it showed good judgment. Barring a scandal, Kander was unbeatable. Justus was pragmatic enough to take a dispassionate look at the facts, reach the correct conclusion, and accept it even though it was unpleasant for her personally. That’s a good quality in a potential mayor. 

Big donors: Charles Luae, Chris Koster, Clarkson Construction, Shirley Helzberg, Zane Burke, lots of healthcare executives and attorneys

Notable endorsements: Mayor Sly James, former Mayor Kay Barnes, several current and former Missouri legislators, Jason Kander

Base of support: Urbanists, corporate lawyers, Sly James 

Pet issue: Public transit, bike lanes, and other non-automobile means of transportation 

Telling detail: Justus’ day job reflects her corporate-Democrat worldview: she’s director of pro bono services (nice!) at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, a law firm known for defending tobacco and pharmaceutical companies (booo). 

On how to pay for more affordable housing: “[It’s] been looked at through a hundred different lenses. Some people say, ‘Well, maybe we should do a property tax.’ Other people have said, ‘Well, let’s move money from the scooters that are being rented in the city’ — but you know, of course, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Others say, ‘If it’s a priority, it needs to come out of the general fund’ — but unfortunately there’s a whole lot of things that are competing for that [general fund money]. So one of the things I would like to see is whether, you know, maybe we have a situation where a developer is getting an incentive and they don’t have an affordable housing component, so they make a payment in lieu of affordable housing, which goes into the trust fund. We can be coming up with creative ideas like that, and I’m going to be proposing those as we move forward.”

On the June ballot initiative that would cap developer tax breaks at 50 percent: “It takes opportunities off the table that we don’t want to take off the table. For instance, if we went to a 50 percent cap, and all of a sudden had the opportunity for an amazing catalytic project that was happening along the 71 Highway corridor and the only way we were going to be able to make it work is through a 100 percent tax incentive, and the project didn’t [happen because of that], then that seems like a silly result. Rather than trying to come up with these one-size-fits-all things, we need to start adding in more requirements and responsibilities and diversify the type of incentives that we have. So for instance, what do I mean by that? Well, number one, make more requirements that require job creation with an incentive and then have clawbacks when you don’t hit those benchmarks. Put pieces in there that require affordable housing and sustainability and making sure that our community is resilient in the face of climate change. These are a lot of things that we could be adding into the incentive program right now that we’re not doing. And I think that’s a much better way to handle incentives than to do away with them or to cap them artificially.”

On Troost: “I think it’s incredibly important that we have conversations with the state and the county about a property tax cap. I don’t want to get into a situation where we have people who are having to leave neighborhoods that they lived in for decades because property taxes are going up … I get a little bit frustrated at times when I hear [people say] we’re displacing people along Troost Avenue. Actually no, we’re not. Communities on both sides of Troost Avenue have been working for decades to start to really have some development through the corridor. And it’s finally starting to happen, and we’re replacing car dealerships and check-cashing stores with amenities that neighbors have wanted forever. And this is exactly what we’ve been wanting through the corridor. So now we need to make sure that we have policies in place that allow people who have been pushing forward development in their communities for years to be able to stay and enjoy the fruits of their labor.”

On crime: “I am a firm believer that programs that look at violent crime as a public health issue are incredibly important, because then you’re starting to look at all sorts of different things, including the economic status of individuals who are in higher-crime neighborhoods, housing and job opportunities, education opportunities — ensuring that we’re funding our schools at a level that gets kids ready for kindergarten, that provides for conflict resolution in the schools. It’s really just layer after layer after layer, and what I will be doing as mayor of Kansas City is making sure that all of those resources are being really well hung together.” 


Currently: KCMO Councilwoman (5th District), elected in 2015; attorney 

Previous experience: Jackson County assistant prosecuting attorney, hair salon owner

Assets: Speaks her mind, only person in the race who speaks with sincere urgency about KC’s violent crime problem  

Liabilities: Not much money, not much name recognition

Maverick moment: Supported the Westport sidewalk privatization over the objections of civil rights advocates, citing the likelihood that security in the district would prevent more violence. “We can’t let the haunting history of racism stop us from keeping the people of Kansas City safe,” Canady said during a contentious council meeting. 

Big donors: Nonprofits and churches, a few thousand from Block Real Estate, but otherwise the campaign coffers are pretty bare

Quote we like: “Giving the community more of a voice, being intentional about reducing crime with solutions that are not necessarily law enforcement, encouraging business growth opportunities, and promoting home ownership: those were the key things I wanted to accomplish [when I was elected to the council] in 2015. And so, obviously, I started out as a neophyte. I wanted to do all these things and then you realize this budget, even though it’s $1.6 billion, they’re telling me there’s no money for me to support neighborhoods. But in that same conversation, we were subsidizing luxury development using that money. So it was not that we don’t have the money, it’s just about where our priorities are. We say we want to be the most entrepreneurial city, but we’re not aligning our dollars to support those activities, to have that impact.” 

Why she’s running: “As a council person, you’re left to try to fight to get things when all the money is spent, before you even have the ability to weigh in on the conversation. It’s problematic. So I had the option of either spending another four years trying to fight for a little piece of the pie — to do one or two little things. I’ve gotten some wins, but we haven’t been able to make the substantial impact that’s been necessary, and so when I began to look at my [council] reelection, I knew I was not going to be able to effectively deliver on these commitments with just another four years if the leadership from the mayor’s office did not support these positions. And then when I looked at the field of candidates, many of whom I’ve served with, I knew they didn’t share my [positions] because their voting records were reflective of that. And that is where my righteous indignation just really rose up and said, ‘OK, I can keep complaining about it, or I can do something about it.’ And so I decided to step out and do something about it.” 

On affordable housing: “We’re going to have to make the commitment with the general fund dollars. We’ve made commitments to large scale developers for luxury. We have to make the same commitment for affordable housing in the city. And so everybody’s going to say, ‘Well, there’s no money in the budget.’ Well, there’s $1.6 billion in the budget. Again, we have to look at our priorities. Where are we spending money that we need to reallocate? Our funding preferences right now, the only money that we spend on housing comes from the federal government, and that number is getting smaller and smaller. We have sales tax authority that we could use. The mayor’s currently wanting to use that for early pre-K. I support early pre-K, but the city has to prioritize addressing this housing crisis.”

On the airport: “The problem with the airport project is that the same people that started it off with a backroom deal are the same people that are still trying to lead it. And there’s just this void of credibility with it, you know? They are asking the public to trust a proposal without any transparency. It took the airlines awhile, and now they’re saying that taxpayer dollars are not going to be used to pay for it, but how? My process would be full transparency. We hired an owner’s rep about a year ago and we have received no feedback. If Southwest Airlines can have a third party tell them that they should negotiate a certain number, then why isn’t our owner’s rep doing the same? Clearly there are issues. I am on the City Council, but there is so much we do not know when we should. This is mostly going through the Aviation Department, and we get briefed with far too little information. We just have some of the pieces, and we need more transparency so we can all see what is actually going on with the project.”


Currently: Mayor Pro Tem, KCMO Councilman (1st District At-Large), elected in 2011

Previous experience: Marketing — vice president of a marketing firm, director of marketing for the City Market in the late ‘90s

Assets: Probably the most qualified person running 

Liabilities: Has the presence and charisma of a Far Side character

Big donors: Unions, Northland developers and construction companies, several Asian interests (Kansas City Chinese Association, Mid America Asian Culture Association, and the owners of iPho Tower and Kin Lin)

Base of support: Northland voters 

Snub: The Northland political group Forward endorsed Steve Miller over Wagner, citing Wagner’s lukewarm fundraising

How he’d be different than Sly: “This term [Sly’s second] has been much more combative … From my perspective, it’s all about collaboration. It’s all about figuring out what people are looking for … We are a decentralized kind of government in Kansas City. You’ve got a city manager doing one thing, the mayor is doing something, a council that’s doing things, other boards and commissions. You cannot do anything just because you want to. You have to work with people. And I think just looking at what I’ve been able to do the last eight years, how I was able to do it says a lot about how I would work as mayor.” 

On how to pay for more affordable housing: “I was the one who actually submitted the resolution in 2017 to get the housing policy discussion going. And so that’s what we’re into right now. As far as the [requested] $75 million, yeah, you’re going to need that … the real question is how badly do you want it? Because those out there who think that $75 million is just going to kind of fall out of the sky, I have to remind them that back in the last term, we were talking about just doing a $5 million fund, which we never were able to achieve. Quite honestly, I do not see how you could possibly reach that number in any meaningful sense without asking a taxing question.”

On opposing a measure in November (which ultimately passed) that allocated the city’s cut of scooter revenue for affordable housing: “It was estimated that [scooters] would bring in revenues of approximately $300,000 for the city. The average cost of [building] one multifamily affordable house is about $200,000. The average amount it would take to provide funds to rehab a home for affordable housing is between $30,000 and $50,000 … Maybe a handful of people might be assisted in the course of providing affordable housing. To me it was not a real solution.”

On local control of the police (KC is the only major city in the country that does not control its own police department; instead, the governor of Missouri appoints a KC police board): “I think our ultimate goal should be local control, but I don’t believe that we should force it. And what I mean by that is — you have had essentially two parallel paths between the city and the police department since 1939. You do not just kind of throw it all together and hope it all works out. That’s what St Louis did, and as you’ll recall, it has caused nothing but chaos.”

On city pensions: “In about three years, at least two of those [the city’s] pension programs [there are four total] are going to be upside down. We are currently paying the appropriate contributions to keep them at the state-required levels that we have. That will begin to change in the next two or three years. There’s actually a discussion going on right now related to pension reform — the second one that has occurred over the past eight years. I’d like to see what they come up with, because the issues that we’re talking about are big ones as far as what we may have to do in order to shore them up in the longer term. Those are issues that, quite honestly, will involve collective bargaining agreements with all of our bargaining units. They’re going to be tough conversations, but the reality is that every city in this country is behind on their pension. I know of no city that is 100 percent fully funding its system. We are in a lot better position. We have fiscal challenges, frankly as a result of the obligations that we are paying right now. But I’m going to wait and see what we hear from the second pension task force and then go from there.”



Currently: KC Councilman (6th District At-Large), elected in 2011; attorney

Previous experience: Served as Shawnee Mission West student council vice president alongside president Paul Rudd

Assets: Eight years on the council, can claim some credit for positive development projects (Hy-Vee Arena, East Brookside) 

Liabilities: Raised a ton of money a few years ago, but the faucet dried up as others entered the race

Big donors: Developers, real estate interests, and the lawyers who represent developers and real estate interests — Ken Block, Lane 4, Northpoint Development, Steve Foutch, Brad Nicholson, Butch Rigby, Roxsen Koch, David Frantze 

Family ties: Wife is Cathy Jolly, former KC Councilwoman and state representative 

Cheap stunt: Taylor last year introduced an ethics ordinance that would limit travel for council members and cap lobbyist gifts at $5, a proposal widely seen (even mocked) for being, as Mayor Sly James put it, “a transparently political move.” Others noted that Taylor — who has received big checks from the business community —  didn’t see fit in his ordinance to address council members receiving campaign contributions from parties with business interests before the city. 

What he says about that: “I’ve always had an issue with taxpayer-funded travel … We have so many people now flying all over, and there were no rules. I think it was $160,000 [in council member travel expenses] that was quoted [close, it was $155,000] just for a two-year period of council. That was a red flag to me.”

How he’d be different than Sly: “I think my style’s definitely collaborative on things … I’m a good listener. I don’t necessarily need to be the one talking all the time and on TV all the time and all that.” 

On crime: “Rewards [for homicide tips] used to be $1,000 when I came on the council, and that had been the same figure probably for the last 20 or 30 years. That doesn’t really get people’s attention if they’re motivated by a reward. This new police chief agrees — he went with the corporate community and the city manager and council, and we raised it from $1,000 to $5,000 and then we got it up to $10,000. And what we’re seeing is a record number of tips coming in. What you’re also seeing, if you look at the clearance rate…. A couple of years ago, we were at 50 percent for homicide. So you had a fifty-fifty chance of getting away with a homicide. And the people who are committing these homicides know that. It’s now up, it’s close to 80 percent now. In other communities, like Omaha, where they have a higher reward, rate — I think it’s $20,000 to $25,000 — I think they’re closer to, like, a 90 percent clearance rate [yep: 91 percent, actually]. So it creates an accountability, because it’s a very small percentage of people committing these crimes. We just need to get them off the streets to protect neighborhoods.”

On how to pay for affordable housing: “Affordable housing is difficult to get financed by a bank. That’s why, in almost every instance, what we’ve done either involves HUD giving us money from the federal level or at the state level, or low income tax credits. If we had our own local fund, we wouldn’t have to worry as much. We wouldn’t be as dependent on the federal government or state. So I advocated a similar thing, but the financing would be to take some of the surplus funds from different development projects that come back to the city … In the next decade, we’re going to see quite a few of the larger downtown TIFs end, and what that means is all the property that’s built up is back on the tax base for the school districts, but also, a lot of times there’s excess money that comes back to the city. And I’ve heard there might be one worth as much as $2 or $3 million. So if we transfer that into an affordable housing fund, we could start building that up. I would also reach out to other private sources. But we definitely need a local fund.”

On the airport: “The selection process was sloppy. I think I still disagree with the selection” — [Taylor really, really wanted Burns and Mac to get the contract] — ”but I’ve been trying to work with them [Edgemoor] and be an advocate for the taxpayers that supported, collectively as a city, a new terminal. But this whole process started with a secret meeting at a private club on a no-bid project, which was the wrong wrong way to go. The chair of the airport committee” — [that’d be Jolie Justus, one of Taylor’s opponents] — “and the mayor were involved in that, and that was a major mistake. It should have been obvious that $1 billion projects always should be bid from day one.” 


Currently: KCMO Councilman (3rd District), elected in 2011 

Previous experience: Not much; he did some work for Alvin Brooks and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, but was just 26 years old when elected to the KCMO Council in 2011 

Assets: Youngest KCMO Council member in history counts for something

Liabilities: Got dinged pretty hard for racking up $31,000 in taxpayer-funded travel costs in two years 

Likes to tout: 18th and Vine redevelopment, which is odd, because it’s a mess over there 

Notable endorsement: Andrew Gillum 

Big donors: Jim Nichols, Heavy Construction Association, other construction interests

Defining characteristic: An almost pathological aversion to speaking in specifics 

Telling quote: We asked Reed what the three most critical issues facing the city were. His answers were: “reducing the homicide rate”; “efficiency of governance”; and “workforce development.” When we asked him which was the biggest challenge, he responded, “All three.”  

On the June ballot initiative that would cap developer tax breaks at 50 percent: “Well, I certainly agree. I do think, as well, that the rebuilding of our downtown is extremely important, and I don’t want to lose sight of that, but I do know that people want to be able to feel the momentum in all parts of the city … And so we have to work with our development community to really figure out ways that their community benefit is something of great value to the entire city. I think we have to send a clear message to our development community that we have to get serious about the redevelopment and growth of our entire city. I think that we also have a number of real unique tools in our toolbox to help us address this. It’s extremely important because it helps people realize the type of benefits that they can actually receive, but also for them to realize that these are valuable places for you to actually come in and invest in and develop within the heart of the city. And how we actually incent companies to do that is something that I want to do within my first 100 days as mayor of the city. I plan to convene a group of developers and organizations to help tackle how we as a city really address pulling this together.” 

So do you support the 50 percent cap? “I didn’t answer that purposely for you. I mean, it is a debate obviously we as a council will have to take, and it’s something that, um, likely won’t make it to the mayor’s desk. It’s something that I as a council person will have to make a decision on pretty soon. Honestly, it’s capped at 75 percent now. We are aggressively trying to pursue what that cap may be, and 50 percent could be the best cap. We’ll make that determination. Could be soon.”


Currently: Bank manager

Previous experience: Runs for office constantly and always loses

Assets: Nothing to lose, no fear 

Liabilities: Still $49,800 to go before he hits $50,000 GoFundMe mayoral fundraising goal  

Likes to tout: Was board president of Habitat for Humanity

Not wrong about: “The idea of having to go to various special interests, ask them for money — knowing full well they expect something in return — is truly harming our city. No city and no candidate [should] have to succumb to this. And it brings out candidates that aren’t prepared to make the important, difficult, but ultimately beneficial decisions that have to be made.”

How he’d be different from Sly: “I’m looking to be an inclusive mayor. I could envision having a day of the week where my schedule’s entirely open only to meet with citizens, just to try to understand the types of feelings citizens are having. So they’ve got an open door to my office. My leadership style is going to be one where we’re going to truly develop new leadership and new talent. That’s going to be a huge focus of mine.” 

On an affordable housing fund: “It’s a day late and a dollar short … The other aspect of this that really bothers me is that I don’t just want to have funds — I want to have real projects that can be moved forward. We give a lot of incentive dollars on the basis that these projects would not get done otherwise. Going forward, entities like Cordish or other developers [need] to be expected to do something else in addition to what they’re doing right now.”

On the status quo: “I have never been more proud of being a candidate outside of city government as I am in this election. I think there’s a terrible disconnect that’s going on when we have City Council people who are only now coming to the surface with solutions for districts and neighborhoods. Some of them have been in office for eight years, some of them for four years. Why now?”

On the structure of KCMO government: “[As mayor], I’m most likely going to require a charter change to make city government more responsive to the people. I’ve never seen a structure where the mayor is more of a figurehead than the one we have here. So, simply put, a solution: the mayor would be the CEO and would have the ability to hire and fire the city manager. The city manager would be something akin to the chief operating officer, and the City Council would be something more akin to the board of directors. If you want certain things done in this city today, and city government is responsible for delivering those things, you really would be much better served going to the city manager than you would going to the mayor … That’s too diffuse of a reporting structure to really make this situation work the way it needs to.”


Currently: President of Travois, a local firm that finances economic development projects in Native American and indigenous communities

Previous experience: KCMO TIF Commission, Jackson County Democratic Committee 

Assets: Outsider status, lots of small-dollar donations, tallest candidate

Liabilities: Thin résumé; his wife’s father founded the company of which he is now president 

Likes to tout: “The business that my wife and I own builds affordable houses and invests in community development projects across the entire country, and I really want to do that for Kansas City.”

Doesn’t like to mention: Lives in a million-dollar mansion on Ward Parkway

Shining moment: Getting booted off the TIF Commission for (rightfully) opposing unnecessary tax incentives for a new BNIM Crossroads headquarters. 

Base of support: Bishop Miege graduates, Visitation parishioners in their 30s and 40s, some social justice activists 

Big donors: Lots of small-dollar donations, some academics, but also a healthy chunk of Polsinelli lawyers 

Bonus points: Didn’t drop out when his high-school classmate Jason Kander entered the race and stole his campaign manager

On old people: “[One] thing that I have found frustrating about the political debate, and a lot of the conversation around it, is that it has completely left seniors out of the equation. When it came time [for my parents] to move into a specific senior housing type of environment, they had to leave their neighborhood. There was nothing for them in the Plaza or Brookside area, where they had lived their whole lives … We have a system in Kansas City now where once you get too old to live in your own house, not only do you have to leave behind that place you love, but you have to leave your community behind, and that’s wrong. We should be doing more to encourage the development of affordable senior housing in the core of our city.”

Quote we like: “I was on the TIF Commision for years, and I supported projects like a new grocery store at 39th and Prospect. [That project], number one, could not have actually accessed capital any other way, and number two, really benefited the community. I opposed other projects that were happening for large corporations in parts of town that are already doing well, because they could access capital for that project, and it did not create benefits for the community. So when it comes to the use of tax incentives, my standard is that we should only be using them in parts of Kansas City that can’t access that capital already, and that we’re using them [incentives] to bring things into the community that we do not already have: net quality jobs that we do not already have, and the kind of housing projects we don’t have enough of.”

On jobs: “Real estate development is important, and it brings a lot of jobs to Kansas City, but I think because of our sole focus on that alone for the last 20 years, we have missed this other growing problem of job-skill development. So now the problem we face is not real estate vacancy. For the most part, we have addressed the issue of having a dead downtown — we have a cool downtown. Now the problem is we have 3,000 to 5,000 tech jobs that average $90,000 a year that we can’t fill. We have good career paths open to people in Kansas City now. Yet at the same time, we have neighborhoods in Kansas City where the unemployment rate is shockingly high. So what that tells me as a business owner is that we have a gap between the skills that our employers demand and the skills that our people are graduating from 12th grade with.”  


Currently: Attorney

Previous experience: Seven years as chair of the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, helped found a nonprofit called Turning Point 

Assets: Outsider status, has raised a lot of money — second only to Justus — even though nobody had even heard of him a year ago 

Liabilities: The Howard Schultz of this race, Miller is a guy with a lot of money who seems incapable of articulating why he actually wants to be mayor or what he’d actually do 

Big donors: Miller is the preferred candidate of entrenched power. Executives supporting his campaign include Leo Zahner (A. Zahner Company), Gary Muller (Americo Life Insurance), Robb Heineman (Sporting KC), Bill Clarkson (Clarkson Construction), Warren Erdman (KC Southern), John Houlehan (Country Club Bank), Henry Massman (Massman Construction), and Sean Miller (The Miller Group). Lots of Mission Hills residents who are “retired” or “community volunteers” also maxed out for Miller. 

Base of support: Blue bloods, Visitation parishioners in their 50s and 60s, Republicans

Notable endorsements: Tim Kaine (they’re old Rockhurst buddies), Forward (a Northland political group) 

Similarity to Sly: Both trial lawyers, both mediators, both have giant hole inside that can only be filled by approval from the business community 

Revealing glimpse into his worldview: “The reality is there is just not enough money in government to solve all affordable housing problems. We’re going to have to do public-private partnerships. And that means our government working very closely with private businesses and putting together a sound policy that encourages private investment. Because that’s where the money is in this world, it’s in our free markets.”

On the June ballot initiative that would cap developer tax breaks at 50 percent: “I think that providing artificial caps is not the solution. I agree with the objective of making certain that we have properly tailored tax incentives for development. But I don’t believe that just handpicking numbers is the way to do that … I think the answer is a well-articulated city plan. The decision of where to put those dollars should be guided by the city plan, it should include a plan for incentives, and we should have a sliding scale depending on the nature of the project and its value to our community. It would be awful to lose out on an opportunity to provide good, meaningful, paying jobs because we have handcuffed ourselves.” 

On jobs: “We are not the New York Yankees. We are not going to bring really high-prized talent or big companies back to Kansas City. We need to grow our home-grown talent and make certain this a great place for our young people to stay. We need to make sure this is the place for small businesses.”

Why him: “I am the only one that is qualified in terms of experience. No one else in this race has started their own business [not true, Canady opened a hair salon], ran that successfully, and knows what it’s like everyday to have to attract business and be financially responsible, for employment, for healthcare. No one has the experience in the nonprofit community as I have [not true, Klein has been involved in several nonprofits]. No one has been involved in the founding of a not-for-profit where you have to start something from ground zero, go around, make money, watch it grow. And most importantly, no one has been involved in real executive leadership in the public realm. There are council members who are working in the legislative office, but it’s a really different experience when you have the financial leadership on your shoulders. You are the one person who people are looking to to articulate leadership, and I had the opportunity to lead MoDOT in the state, and no one else has had that opportunity.”


Currently: KC Councilman (3rd District, At-Large), elected in 2015; University of Kansas law professor; attorney

Assets: Media savvy, policy wonk, natural politician

Liabilities: Kinda-sorta got a DUI in Lawrence last year (he’s contesting it); chameleonish tendencies 

Base of support: Millennials, Twitter activists, lawyers 

Likes to tout: His work on affordable housing policy and his distaste for unnecessary incentives for developers

Doesn’t mention: Several developers — as well as many attorneys who represent developers before the city — have cut him big checks 

Big donors: Price Brothers Management Company (real estate developer), attorneys at big-money firms like Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Bryan Cave, and Polsinelli (including Polsinelli CEO Russell Welch), Jonathan Kemper, Bill George

Notable endorsement: Eastside political club Freedom Inc. 

How he’d be different than Sly: “Particularly coming out of the financial crisis, when we needed to be exciting, engaged, etc., I think the mayor was the right guy for the time. I disagree sometimes with how the mayor wants to get things done. I think the details are important, particularly when you’re talking about tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and I think sometimes his attentiveness to those details has not always been the same level of focus I would have. You know, on some of these incentive deals he has supported, I frankly think — my preference is always to see how we can give the lowest incentive, and how we can get the most money to taxpayer hands as soon as possible. I think his has been more, ‘Look I just want to see the project done.’ I get that — that’s kind of a tension in government — but cost matters, taxes matter,  and delivery of services matter.”

On taxes: “I have no interest in raising people’s taxes for a number of years. I just think we’ve had a lot of that lately in the city. Particularly the reliance on the sales tax. I’m not necessarily the first President Bush saying, ‘Read my lips, no new taxes,’ but frankly I think it’s about time in KC that someone says that, and I think I’m pretty darn close to that. Barring some emergency or something of that sort, I do not think we need to raise taxes in our city. I think what we really need to do is see how we’re spending, see where we can cut out spending, particularly on things like consultants and studies, and deliver the basic services that we’re supposed to.” 

On how to pay for affordable housing: “We need to be spending the money we get already. Each year since I’ve been on the council, Kansas City, Missouri, gets about $8 million from HUD. So eight times five actually gets you to $40 million of the [requested] $75 million dollar fund. Do we have a real plan for how we spend it? No. Do we actually try to see long-term measurable goals of how it’s been allocated throughout the city? No. So I would suggest a big part is making sure you’re being smart with what you’re doing with those funds and how that’s aligning with long-term business goals with the city. How do you get to $75 million? By being smart about what you’re already getting in. There’s funding from HUD, and we’re getting $10 million a year from the eighth-cent city economic development sales tax — some of that money this year went into housing. How did that money that went into housing relate to our broader housing goals? I don’t think that study has been done.”

On the airport: “Let me see here, how to be nice … Look, I support the new terminal project. I think it’s important for our city, I think it will be positive for our city once it gets built and gets done. I’ve been disappointed by much of the process. There are some who say, ‘Well, that’s just politics.’ No, it’s not. From the moment that this project was announced, and I still remember it like it was yesterday, in May of 2017, at a press conference. I stood actually on the press side — several of my colleagues were on the side with the mayor and with the cameras looking at them — but I stood behind the camera because I didn’t know what the hell was happening. And then we get that proposal, a no-bid, now multi-billion dollar contract, which was was bizarre, and not basic governing principles. Then we go through this summer odyssey of ‘Let’s come up with the most convoluted approach to procurement ever…’” Lucas went on for several more minutes, but suffice it to say he is not a fan of the airport process so far.

Quote we will hold him to: “My [goal as mayor] is going to be long-term policies … that change the city for the better. And at the end of that, I don’t want anything named after me. I would be honored frankly, if my successor has even better ideas for keeping the city going forward.” 

On Twitter: @davidhudnall and @ByEmilyAPark

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