A lot of familiar names are surfacing as candidates begin preparing for next year’s Kansas City Council races.
So far, the only person who has publicly talked about challenging Mayor Sly James is former city councilman Dan Cofran, who says he will make up his mind by late October.
But political insiders keep mentioning Councilman Scott Taylor as a viable challenger to the mayor, and they talk of polling early next month that will gauge his chances. Taylor insists he is focused on running for re-election to the 6th District at-large seat from south Kansas City. So far, he appears to be unopposed in that race.
Most of the 12 council races are shaping up to be interesting contests. Six current council members are term-limited out. Some open seats are drawing multiple candidates, and some incumbents also face rigorous challenges.
Those who have formed campaign committees include former City Council members Teresa Loar and Ken Bacchus, along with former firefighters union leader Louie Wright. Other familiar politicos running for council are Jackson County Legislator Theresa Garza Ruiz and Missouri Sen. Jolie Justus.
One theory circulating is that although many people assume James will be re-elected, his critics hope to deny him seven reliable votes on the City Council. So there’s a hunt for people who would oppose James, or at least who would be independent voices on the council on such key issues as a new airport terminal and streetcar expansion.
But others aren’t so sure there’s a solid opposition group forming.
“When the dissatisfied know they cannot defeat the incumbent mayor, they look to the council races for a possible coalition to oppose a mayor’s agenda. But it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen,” said Steve Glorioso, who was a political aide to Kay Barnes when she was mayor but who isn’t currently working with any potential candidates.
Other Kansas City political consultants, including Pat Gray, Jason Parson and Marcus Leach, also said there may be candidates running who would regularly challenge James on issues, but they didn’t see a solid opposition coalition of candidates materializing.
One big change is the election season. In the past, the council primary was in February and the general election in March, but a voter-approved charter change has moved those dates to an April 7 primary and a June 23 general election. Those dates should be favorable to candidates, with more time and in warmer months.
“The new cycle opens campaigns up for people to run on a more grass-roots, low-budget campaign,” Glorioso said.
Official filing for City Council races is Dec. 9 through Jan. 13. Much could change by then, but here’s how races are shaping up:
▪ 1st District: Incumbent Dick Davis is seeking re-election but faces a challenge from Wright; Heather Hall, whose husband, Eben, is a veteran member of the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police; and Jane Rinehart, retired Central High debate coach whose sister is Clay County Assessor Cathy Rinehart.
▪ 1st District at large: So far, incumbent Scott Wagner appears to be unopposed.
▪ 2nd District: So far, attorney Dan Fowler is the only person running to replace Russ Johnson, who is term-limited out.
▪ 2nd District at large: Loar is running to succeed Ed Ford, who is term-limited out. Others have expressed interest but have not yet formed campaign committees.
▪ 3rd District: Incumbent Jermaine Reed is seeking re-election and is challenged by minister and volunteer coordinator Bryan Dial.
▪ 3rd District at large: The race to succeed Melba Curls, who is term-limited out, includes University of Kansas associate law professor Quintin Lucas and longtime Freedom Inc. board member Dee Evans. Neighborhood advocate Karmello Coleman is also running and the Rev. Stephan Gordon, associate minister of Blue Valley Missionary Baptist Church, has formed a campaign committee. Former Kansas City school board member Crispin Rea had announced but has since pulled out.
▪ 4th District: Justus and Mattie Rhodes CEO John Fierro are running to succeed Jan Marcason, who is term-limited out.
▪ 4th District at large: Councilman Jim Glover is seeking re-election and is challenged by Jared Campbell, an insurance agent and civic activist.
▪ 5th District: Councilman Michael Brooks is seeking re-election and is challenged by Bacchus and Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Alissia Canady.
▪ 5th District at-large: Cindy Circo is term-limited out. Those seeking to replace her include Garza Ruiz and retired city codes enforcement officer Dennis Anthony.
▪ 6th District: Councilman John Sharp is term-limited out, and no one has formally announced or formed a campaign committee yet.
▪ 6th District at large: Taylor is seeking re-election.