Kander, who represented Kansas City in the Missouri House for two terms before reaching the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, is the ninth mayoral candidate.
Unlike his competitors, who are either trying to work their way up through terms on the Kansas City Council or making their bids as outsiders to City Hall, Kander’s run for mayor has drawn national attention from political observers who had him pegged for higher office — Missouri Governor or the presidency seemed to match his ambitions.
In the age of Donald Trump, Democrats are looking for a national candidate who can energize its base in 2020. Kander, who was the top Democratic vote-getter in Missouri in 2016 and was the youngest statewide officeholder anywhere when elected Secretary of State, seemed like a possibility to fit that bill.
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Since narrowly losing to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt in 2016, Kander has been president of the voting rights advocacy group Let America Vote. Even Kander’s work there gave the appearance of presidential ambition — of the five field offices Let America Vote opened in 2018, two were in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“The fact he had offices in New Hampshire and Iowa sure seemed like a funny coincidence,” said Jeff Link, who runs Link Strategies, a political consulting firm in Iowa.
But Kander, 37, brushes off those connections.
“They’re hotbeds for voter suppression,” Kander said on Saturday.
They’re also hotbeds for presidential activity — Iowa has the first presidential caucus and New Hampshire fields the first president primary every four years.
Kander insists that he was thinking of ways to serve while running Let America Vote.
“What I decided was with all the progress that our city has made, with the question of will the progress continue and will it be felt in every part of the city, I believe I’m the best person to make that happen,” said Kander, flanked by Abe Rakov, the executive director for Let America Vote and who initially consulted with Phil Glynn’s Kansas City mayor campaign. “Once I came to that conclusion it was a very simple decision for me.”
So did he ever consider running for president? Kander won’t say.
“Like I said, I was considering the best way for me to serve my community, and I’m really excited for this campaign,” Kander said.
During his speech, Kander touched on a mayoral platform of keeping Kansas City’s upswing out of the doldrums of the recession, but applying the city’s success to areas that have struggled.
“I’m going to be ready to take this office on day one,” Kander said, while pledging that he would return for another term if voters would have him.
He was introduced on Saturday by a pool of local political figures, including council members Teresa Loar and Kevin McManus, Missouri House Democrat Gail McCann Beatty and former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes.