Local Columnists

Steve Kraske: Remember the name Quinton Lucas, a politician of startling potential

Quinton Lucas is the favorite to win the 3rd District at-large seat on the Kansas City Council when the city votes Tuesday.
Quinton Lucas is the favorite to win the 3rd District at-large seat on the Kansas City Council when the city votes Tuesday.

Quinton Lucas sparkles.

From the cut of his suit to the brilliance of his smile, from the wow-inducing resume to his polished presentation, Lucas catches the light.

He is the favorite to win the 3rd District at-large seat on the Kansas City Council next week, and I’m writing about him today because you’re going to be hearing about him in the tomorrows of our times.

Local Democratic politicos even dare to compare him to a young Barack Obama — a talented black man with a seemingly limitless future.

After watching him speak to three different audiences, the startling potential is clear, unfair as it is to place such lofty expectations on a 30-year-old.

Lucas insists his story is hardly unique. But it’s one worth hearing.

As a kid, Lucas once lived with his mom and two sisters in a Kansas City hotel room off Missouri 350. He studied in the evenings in — where else? — the bathroom.

“Poverty,” he said, “isn’t a made-up story to me.”

Lucas never met his father. But his mother and teachers saw something in him. He won an academic scholarship to The Barstow School out south at 115th and State Line. Lucas and his mom were up well before dawn many days so she could drop him off and then race back downtown to her job.

Another scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis followed. Then came one to Cornell University Law School.

These days, he’s at the University of Kansas, one of the youngest tenure-track law professors in the country. But he’s pulling back on his academic duties because he won’t have the time should he win Tuesday.

His reasons for running fit an old cliche but shine nonetheless. He grew up wondering why his neighborhood has to be the way it is with its violence and poverty. He wants, he says, to make a “positive difference.”

In the 18th and Vine neighborhood where he’s lived since 2009, a woman in Lucas’ building once asked why he wore a suit every day.

“I’m a lawyer,” Lucas said.

“Then why do you live here?” the woman shot back.

That’s what he wants to change.

He’s nuanced on policy. On streetcars, for example, he favors expansion but prefers a citywide approach instead of a neighborhood-by-neighborhood scheme. On East Side development, he’s blunt: more government help.

Some already see Lucas as Kansas City’s next mayor. But let’s see how he takes to governing, because that’s a unique skill set. No question he’s nailed the good-first-impression part.

To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to skraske@kcstar.com.

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