The election for Kansas City’s new mayor doesn’t offer conservatives much of a choice. Instead of a race between a Democrat and Republican, the Tuesday, June 18 contest is a battle between liberal politicians, Lucas and Justus, solidly within the Democrat Party in a race considered “non-partisan.”
But two well-known conservatives, Jack Cashill and Nola Wood, are saying there actually is a better choice between the two.
The Back Story on Outgoing KC Mayor Sly James
Term-limited Mayor Sly James, who served the last eight years, has returned a high profile to the office after the intermittently controversial tenure of former Mayor Mark Funkhouser. While the office of KC’s mayor is considered a non-partisan position, James has been known as a liberal Democrat. And, let’s face it, like most high-crime urban centers across the nation, the Democrat machine rules when it comes to getting the vote out.
Running for the open seat for mayor of Kansas City are two current Kansas City Council members‒Jolie Justus and Quinton Lucas.
Justus Seeks to Become KC’s Second Female and First Openly Gay Mayor
Jolie Justus would be the second woman mayor since Kay Barnes. Justice served in the Missouri State Senate from 2007-2015. Although a liberal Democrat, she was known in the Senate as a bi-partisan dealmaker who worked with members on both sides of the aisle.
She is also known as the first openly gay legislator in the Senate and has been very active in promoting the LGBTQ agenda across the state. Justus completed college at Missouri State University in Springfield before earning her Juris Doctorate from the UMKC School of Law. She heads pro-bono legal services for the Kansas City law firm of Shook, Hardy and Bacon.
Lucas Wants to Continue Building the “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Kansas City”
Quinton Lucas is a 34-year-old attorney and law professor who rose from poverty in Kansas City to attend Barstow School, Washington University and then Cornell University School of Law. Lucas also studied abroad in South Africa, focusing on the culture and politics of apartheid. The affable politician seeks to succeed Sly James as the second consecutive African American Mayor of Missouri’s largest city.
Both Lucas and Justus have served on the Kansas City Council since 2005.
On the campaign trail Lucas has spoken about his priority of continuing to make Kansas City more business friendly. He also talks about continuing to build the “entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kansas City.” KC BIZPAC ‒ the political action committee of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce ‒ has refrained from endorsing either candidate. However, Lucas has received a political contribution from the KC BIZPAC.
Cashill Gives Nod to Lucas Over Justus As “More Sensible” and “Less Doctrinaire”
Conservative Republican speaker and best-selling author, Jack Cashill, provided a recent boost to the Lucas campaign. Cashill offered a somewhat humorous if not tacit endorsement of Lucas, posting on Facebook, “Quinton Lucas for KC Mayor. He is wiser than his website might lead you to believe.”
Cashill told the Metro Voice “From a conservative perspective, the pickings are slim, but Lucas strikes me as the more sensible and less doctrinaire of the two candidates.”
Conservative Republican Activist, Nola Wood, Voices Support for Candidacy of Lucas
Nola Wood, an uber-activist of all things conservative Republican throughout greater Kansas City, has also posted on Facebook. She, like Cashill, posted a picture on Facebook posing with Lucas.
Voicing support for the candidacy of Lucas over Justus, Wood told the Metro Voice, “As good stewards of the freedoms which have been handed to us, we have a responsibility to support the candidate who shares more of our values in each election. Let’s elect, and stay in touch with Quinton Lucas, to do what is right in KC, and for the impact we have in our entire region.”
Justus Has Support of Mayor Sly James and Former Mayor Kay Barnes
The unusual moves by conservative leaders like Wood and Cashill, in a non-partisan mayoral race, might signal growing support in conservative Republican circles for Lucas.
Despite Justus’ broader political experience and public service, it will be challenging for her to overcome a coalition of African American voters in Kansas City and conservative voters, even while she does well among many women voters. Justus has received the endorsement of former KC Mayor Kay Barnes and also has the support of Mayor Sly James.
Regardless of who wins, either candidate will assure an increasingly high profile for the office of mayor of Kansas City, leading a city that has surged in the last decade to be considered one of the hottest destination cities in the nation.
A drive anywhere downtown or along many of the city’s well-known boulevards showcases a boom of urban construction and redevelopment of formerly run-down and economically depressed areas. Thousands of young professionals and families are pouring in.
As the city’s second female and first gay mayor, Justus’ election would assure national attention like the newly elected mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, has captured. Like Justus, Lightfoot is also openly gay. Justus contends that her record as a State Senator and City Council member show her ability to bring people together on long term solutions.
If Lucas wins, as an attorney and law professor with an Ivy League legal pedigree, he will be considered likely to become one of the most articulate and high-profile mayors of a major U.S. city. Even more so than fellow African-American mayor Sly James who is of a different, and older, generation.
Polls Show Lucas Narrowly Leading Justus with Undecided Voters Making the Race a Toss-Up
A poll released on May 20 by Remington Research showed Lucas leading Justus by a margin of 38% to 30% with 32% of voters still undecided, making the race a statistical toss-up heading into the final weeks before election day on June 18th.
Justus Has Huge Campaign Fundraising Edge, While Lucas May Lead in Charisma
According to campaign finance filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission, as of 40 Days Before Election reports filed on May 9, the Justus campaign had raised over $1 million compared to just over $177,000 for Lucas. With a lead in the polls and support surging, Lucas is expected to show much higher fundraising numbers on the 8 Days Before Election Report when the June 10 report is released this week.
Despite the edge Justus has in political experience and a huge advantage in campaign fundraising, Lucas my hold the advantage in the optics of leadership and charisma. Those intangibles can be key to giving big city mayors a higher profile and competitive advantages when vying for state and federal funding. James and Barnes, although liberals, clearly had more charisma than Funkhouser. If elected, Lucas could eclipse them all.
What Happens After the Election?
If elected, Lucas is expected to become known as a consensus builder and work hard to represent all constituency groups and stakeholders in Kansas City. For the technically non-partisan office of mayor that office holders have governed in sometimes partisan ways, Justus would most certainly make the same claim. Yet, her political history in the Missouri Senate displayed, as Cashill alluded to, a more partisan approach to advocating for traditionally liberal causes, such as abortion and LGBTQ issues.
Either candidate, if elected, will have to nurture the growing upsides of a city that is enjoying a national rise in prominence. At the same time, they will have to contend with the perennial issues of crime, business growth, a contentious City Council, neighborhood safety and infrastructures in need of hundreds of millions of dollars (if not a $billion-plus) in repairs and maintenance.
–Dwight Widaman and Staff