KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Former Missouri Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander will run to be mayor of Kansas City.
Kander’s campaign website was updated Monday morning with a press release that said Kander will kick off his campaign on July 14.
We’ve made great progress in Kansas City, but we can do so much more. I love my hometown and I’d be honored to lead it as your mayor. https://t.co/NBRZRjNxZi
— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) June 25, 2018
Kander joins an already crowded field of candidates -- now totaling nine -- seeking to replace the term-limited, current mayor, Sly James.
“I want to make sure that everybody in Kansas City feels that they don't have to move across town, move out of town for their family to have a chance at success," Kander told 41 Action News.
Current 4th District councilwoman Jolie Justus was initially seen as a contender for mayor, but Kander's decision forced her to re-evaluate her candidacy.
Justus will now seek re-election to her current seat and has endorsed Kander for mayor, posting on Facebook Monday morning that the decision wasn't easy but she was "putting Kansas City first."
In an interview with 41 Action News, Justus added her vision for Kansas City and motivation for running closely align with Kander's priorities, and the city doesn't need a divisive election.
"While initially, I had some disappointment that this wasn't going to be my immediate path, I quickly pivoted to what's in the best interest of Kansas City," she said.
Current 3rd District councilman and mayoral hopeful Quinton Lucas described Justus' exit as regrettable.
"I think she had a unique voice. One of the few women in the race, someone who was an advocate on LGBT issues, and we're going to lose that in the race, and I think our mayoral field and our conversation in Kansas City are worse for it," Lucas said.
Other council members are already throwing their support behind Kander.
"One of our best and brightest has decided to invest his energy and ideas in our city by running for mayor....when Jason Kander told me he was ready to bring his leadership to City Hall, I said 'Let's go!'" Councilwoman Teresa Loar said.
She was quoted in Kander's announcement, along with Councilman Kevin McManus.
"Jason has always truly cared about Kansas City. It is what drove him to public service after his deployment to Afghanistan in the Army. I'm pleased he's running for mayor and am happy to support his campaign," McManus said.
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner, who's also running for mayor, welcomed Kander to the race. However, he expressed skepticism at the early endorsements.
"If they're going to make a decision a year out, then we'll see how that decision works for them. I certainly wouldn't have done that," he said.
Over the next year, each candidate will face plenty of questions. With a new terminal at KCI and a streetcar extension in the works, keeping Kansas City's momentum going will be a big theme.
"I look at the incredible progress that Mayor James has made, and this is an opportunity for me to build on that progress, and I think I'm the right person for that job," Kander said.
The mayoral primary and general election are set for spring/summer of 2019.