Government & Politics

Outgoing Uber executive’s return to Kansas prompts speculation on political aspirations

Brian McClendon, an outgoing vice president for rideshare giant Uber, is moving back to Kansas and has expressed an interest in the state’s politics. Uber’s headquarters are in San Francisco.
Brian McClendon, an outgoing vice president for rideshare giant Uber, is moving back to Kansas and has expressed an interest in the state’s politics. Uber’s headquarters are in San Francisco. The Associated Press

An Uber executive’s decision to move back to Lawrence has prompted speculation that he could run for office in the near future.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas Democratic Party confirmed that Brian McClendon, an outgoing vice president for rideshare giant Uber, last week met the party’s executive director, Kerry Gooch.

McClendon, a University of Kansas graduate and Lawrence native, this week announced his decision to step down from his position as Uber’s vice president of mapping. He previously served as vice president of engineering at Google for 10 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

McClendon told The New York Times he wanted to explore Kansas politics, prompting speculation that he might seek the 2nd District congressional seat that will be open in 2018. Incumbent Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Topeka Republican, announced in January that she would not seek another term.

However, public statements from McClendon have focused more on state issues, such as the state’s budget crisis. Kansas will elect a new governor and fill other statewide offices in 2018.

“I’m still exploring effective ways to help and don’t have anything to announce at this time,” McClendon said in an email to The Star. “I’ve always cared very much about the state of Kansas, and in recent years the news coming out of Topeka has not put Kansas in the best light. I believe we can do better.”

McClendon tweeted March 19 that he had registered to vote in the state. Four days earlier, he had criticized the state’s voting laws, which are some of the toughest in the country, as “voter suppression.”

Clay Barker, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said he had received inquiries about McClendon after the New York Times story was published this week and was unsure whether McClendon’s goal was to become involved in state politics as a candidate or as a donor.

McClendon has donated to both Republican and Democratic campaigns in the past, according to Federal Election Commission records. In 2014, he donated $2,600 to independent Greg Orman’s unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas.

Heather Scanlon, spokeswoman for the Kansas Democratic Party, said she did not expect McClendon to run for any position in 2018, but she confirmed his desire to take a more active role in the state’s politics.

“He’s definitely concerned with the state of the state,” Scanlon said. “And so he’s moving back to put his feet back on the ground here and see what he can do.”

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3

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