Government & Politics

Jolie Justus nearly quadruples next-closest fundraising competitor in mayoral race

Kansas City Councilwoman Jolie Justus lead the pack of Kansas City mayoral candidates in the last quarter of fundraising.
Kansas City Councilwoman Jolie Justus lead the pack of Kansas City mayoral candidates in the last quarter of fundraising.

Sitting out of the crowded Kansas City mayor’s race for more than three months apparently did not hinder Councilwoman Jolie Justus’ ability to raise money.

Justus dropped out of the race — now 12 candidates strong — in late June when former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander confirmed he would run. She got back in after he withdrew, citing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Despite the pause, Justus, who is one of six council members running for mayor, came back with a vengeance late last year and raised $212,844.81 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, according to quarterly campaign finance reports due Tuesday. She nearly quadrupled the next-closest candidate, Steve Miller, who raised $57,995.

Miller is a construction attorney and former chair of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.

When the reporting period ended on Dec. 31, Justus had $249,992.62 in the bank, putting her just behind Miller’s $252,280.99.

Trailing far behind Justus and Miller were Councilman Scott Wagner, Crossroads businessman Phil Glynn and Councilman Quinton Lucas, who raised $36,310.39, $25,695 and $22,343.40, respectively.

Glynn also loaned his campaign $43,000, according to a separate report filed Tuesday.

Justus, Lucas and Wagner are the only candidates whose contributions continue to outpace their spending. Justus was among the top spenders in the fourth quarter, but with her hefty fundraising she still reported a net of $147,676.58. Lucas netted $16,534.29 to Wagner’s $4,303.21.

Others appear to be escalating spending as the April primary draws closer.

Councilman Scott Taylor jumped out to an early start nearly two years ago, raising nearly $331,000 before any other candidates had formed fundraising committees. Last quarter he raised just $9,750 and spent nearly 10 times that amount on campaign management, printing and postage.

He ended the year with $176,999.52, the fifth-largest war chest behind Miller, Justus, Lucas and Kander, whose campaign committee still has more in the bank despite not having received donations since he dropped out.

Councilwoman Alissia Canady, 5th District, raised $5,830 and spent $11,955.96. She has $26,365.63 on hand.

Councilman Jermaine Reed, 3rd District, ended the year with $76,004.73 on hand. He raised $2,759 and spent $2,839.68.

Justus collected large donations from a numbers of high-profile donors, including philanthropist and developer Shirley Bush Helzberg, former Cerner President Zane Burke and Tom’s Town distillery founder David Epstein, all of whom gave her $3,325, the maximum amount an individual can donate to a mayoral candidate. A significant number of her donations came from fellow attorneys, including colleagues at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, where she works as director of pro bono services.

Miller nabbed $2,000 from Bonne Illig, wife of Cerner co-founder Cliff Illig.

Justus also took in $2,000 from Block Real Estate Services, LLC, a major real estate development firm.

Developers are often big donors in city races. Copaken Brooks, a prolific downtown and Crossroads developer, gave $250 to several campaigns.

Glynn has received $3,175 from Jason Swords, a principal at Sunflower Development Group.

Construction executives also gave big last quarter. LJ Kissick, of Kissick Construction gave Wagner $1,000. Two Clarkson Construction executives — Billy Clarkson and W.E. Clarkson — maxed out donating to Justus. McCown Gordon’s political action committee donated to seven of the candidates.

Henry Klein and Vincent Lee, who are both running for mayor established campaign committees this month, so they have not yet had to file a quarterly campaign finance report.

Roi Chinn and Clay Chastain have not created committees.

Community activist Rita Berry dropped out of the race.

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Allison Kite reports on City Hall and local politics for The Star. She joined the paper in February 2018 and covered Midterm election races on both sides of the state line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in economics and public policy from the University of Kansas.