Freedom, Inc., Kansas City’s long-standing black political organization, backed 3rd District Councilman Quinton Lucas’ campaign for mayor on Friday.
Established in 1962 to support the interests of African Americans in the city, the group announced the endorsement on Facebook, choosing Lucas over 10 other candidates, including two fellow black opponents, Councilman Jermaine Reed, 3rd District, and Councilwoman Alissia Canady, 5th District.
Gayle Holliday, a co-leader of the organization, said in an interview the leadership thought Lucas “could represent this city in the highest form.”
She said members thought he could effectively articulate and work out compromises on issues of housing, lowering utility bills and improving city services.
“There’s nothing different about the issues that affect our community, that affect the rest of the city, so we think he will represent the city well — city services, economic development, jobs, all kinds of concepts as it relates to the city,” Holliday said.
Lucas’ campaign touted the endorsement in a press release.
“I am honored and humbled to have the backing of one of the longest standing black political organizations in Kansas City and the country,” Lucas said in the release. “I have been a steadfast advocate for issues impacting the black community, and the support of Freedom, Inc., is a sign of confidence in my ability to lead for our community as mayor.”
In a crowded 11-candidate primary, an endorsement from Freedom could help separate Lucas from Reed, with whom he shares a home council district, and give him a boost over Canady, the only woman of color in the race.
The organization did not endorse Mayor Sly James — or any of his opponents — during his 2015 reelection campaign.
Freedom, Inc. was the second major political organization to give out an endorsement in recent weeks.
Forward Kansas City, the Northland political group, endorsed construction attorney Steve Miller, passing over Councilman Scott Wagner, the only candidate who lives north of the Missouri River.
Ed Ford, a former councilman and vice president of Forward, said the group liked Miller’s passion, vision and maturity. The group’s priorities include the proposed single terminal rebuild of Kansas City International Airport, crime and infrastructure north of the river.
“He talked about how great a city Kansas City can become, more of regional approach,” Ford said. “There’s no question he’s thinking big.”
Miller said he was “thrilled” to receive the group’s endorsement, especially given that three former council members were on the selection committee. With half the city’s landmass and a significant portion of the city’s population north of the river, an endorsement from a leading Northland group could be helpful.
“I’m not somebody that lives north of the river,” Miller said. “I’ve lived my entire life south of the river, and since the goal of my campaign is to connect all of us, I think it’s significant to me that this endorsement is emblematic of my ability to connect north and south of the river.”
Miller said he was “all the more thrilled” the group went with him over the natural choice to endorse Wagner and said he believed they appreciated his vision for the city.
Ford said the group also liked Wagner, who represents 1st District at-large, but didn’t think he could win because he’s not raising as much money as other candidates.
“There’s no question in our minds we all think Scott would make a very fine mayor,” Ford said. “We just didn’t know how he was going to get there.”
Wagner, who has endorsements from local labor unions and county and state elected officials, said he had been told as much and said it was the “wrong reason to endorse anybody.”
“So apparently they decided on the money raised as opposed to the work done,” Wagner said.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s local chapter decided earlier this week to side with the public school districts that oppose James’ proposed 3/8-cent sales tax increase to fund a pre-K expansion.
The group said in a press release the proposal had “several alarming problems (it believes) will keep children of color in the Kansas City Public Schools district from achieving their goals.”
The group took issue with the regressive nature of sales taxes and the board that would oversee it. The release likened the system to public vouchers granted for students to attend private private schools and said it would not create the very equity James says it would.
James said he thought the organization was misinformed about the proposal.
“I think that the problem is ithat they’re getting all wrapped up in stuff that doesn’t have to do with what’s in the best interest of kids,” James said.
The notion his program would create a voucher system is one James has heard before. He argues vouchers divert public money that would have otherwise gone to public schools and that his pre-K proposal is not one. It would create tuition discounts on a sliding scale for parents who send their child to any qualifying quality pre-K program, public or private.
“It’s a nice scare tactic, but it’s an inefficient and it’s an incorrect application of the word,” James said.