Dave Helling

What do KC mayoral candidates need to do to win in April? Here’s a list

Kansas City’s mayoral primary is just three months away.

There is no favorite. All the candidates in this crowded race have work to do in the next 45 days or so to escape the muddled middle and reach the top tier.

As luck would have it, I’m available to help. Here’s what each candidate should do during the next six weeks, as voters begin to contemplate their options.

Scott Wagner: The city councilman and mayor pro tem must be the Mike Burke of 2019 — smart, experienced and the Northland’s choice.

But winning the Northland isn’t enough. Wagner needs a way to appeal to downtown voters and voters along the State Line corridor.

A possible path? Convincing state lawmakers to provide funds for early childhood education as an alternative to Mayor Sly James’ education sales tax.

Jolie Justus: She must effectively manage the next critical weeks of the airport debate. If Justus, a key player on the City Council, can herd enough cats into a room to get a final development agreement, and ground is broken on the new terminal, she’ll be a favorite in April.

If not, she’ll share blame for the, um, difficulties at Kansas City International Airport.

Stephen Miller: How about some youthful street cred? The former Missouri Department of Transportation chair could offer a clear policy for the tangle of pedestrians, scooters, bicycles and cars that increasingly defines downtown. Perhaps the city needs its own transportation department.

Miller would corner the hipster vote, which is up for grabs.

Quinton Lucas: His focus on affordable housing and economic development incentives sits in the pocket of top concerns for voters.

Luckily for him, the City Council is pondering $63 million in borrowing and incentives for a new office building downtown.

Lucas has a reputation for promoting both sides of many issues. In the next weeks, he’ll have a chance to shake that image by leading the opposition to the downtown deal.

Alissia Canady: The councilwoman is respected and well-versed on the issues — she’s a sleeper pick to make it to the finals. Like Lucas, she has argued against excessive development incentives and could join him in opposing the downtown building.

But she is virtually unknown to the larger public. She may want to spend the next six weeks publicly focused on voter registration and turnout, particularly in her district.

Phil Glynn: He is thoughtful, young, successful and an outsider. The city’s biggest problem — violent crime — may need fresh eyes.

Glynn should own the crime issue in the next six weeks. His experience in housing and distressed communities is a natural fit for that discussion. A prominent East Side endorsement or two would help.

Jermaine Reed: He is a controversial figure, even in his own council district. He’s got six weeks to mend those fences, then hope his opponents rough each other up so he can slip through.

Scott Taylor: He was criticized by his City Council colleagues for offering an ethics reform proposal that smacked of politics. Well, yes, voters are thirsty for limiting gifts and access at all levels of government.

His effort failed, but Taylor should talk about ethics reform repeatedly during the next 45 days.

Vincent Lee and Rita Berry: Both candidates are considered long shots, and they must compete on every front to be competitive. Berry’s last campaign finance filing showed less than $90 on hand, while Lee has not filed a campaign finance report.

Remember: This list is subject to change. A heavy snowfall or a serious economic collapse will alter the mayoral election, too.

But voters’ minds will begin to focus on choices now. Candidates who have a clear strategy for the next six weeks likely have the best shot in the April election.

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