Talk about reshuffling the deck.
Jason Kander's out-of-nowhere entry into the 2019 Kansas City mayor's race has flipped the field, jettisoning front-runner Jolie Justus from the contest and applying fierce political pressure on many of the remaining candidates.
It's a whole new ball game precisely because Kander draws support from several other contenders.
But it's still a race. Conversations with a series of political insiders suggest that while Kander is rolling, he's no shoo-in. Major questions remain about whether he really wants the job to boost Kansas City or whether he wants it to bolster his resume for a national campaign one day.
Numerous visits to Iowa and New Hampshire in recent months can do that to a guy.
With a primary election next spring that will narrow what is now a nine-candidate field to two, the race will go public before you know it.
That much is riding on its outcome is obvious. The city's on a roll. Who will keep it going?
Let's break it down again:
Jason Kander. For now, he's got the city by the tail and the race in hand. But will it last? With name ID galore and access to what former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm once memorably called "the most reliable friend you can have in American politics, and that is ready money," Kander is on a rocket ship ride.
But he will need to bear down and start meeting with local groups neighborhood by neighborhood. He also must start answering questions, and there are so many of them. Airport cost overruns. Crime. Pre-K education. Sky-high city debt. Streetcars. Guns.
But don't fool yourself. A former Brookside-area state representative, Kander already knows the questions — and he knows many of the answers, too. And he knows, intimately, how to do the political hustle. He virtually willed himself to a statewide win in 2012 when he ran and won the race for Missouri secretary of state, which wasn't expected.
We'll see if he makes the same commitment to this race.
Councilman Quinton Lucas. He appears undaunted by the new front-runner, announcing his candidacy just two days after the news broke about Kander's interest. But unlike Kander, who so far is facing little competition for his support base in the voter-rich Ward Parkway corridor, Lucas will battle two other council members, Jermaine Reed and Alissia Canady, for the vote in the city's economically distressed East Side.
That will hurt.
Lucas' saving grace is strong crossover appeal, and he has bucketfuls of it. Black candidates have made the mayoral finals in five of the last seven elections.
Councilmen Scott Taylor and Scott Wagner, attorney Stephen Miller, businessman Phil Glynn. There's a shift in this third tier. The two Scotts remain, and two so-called outsiders are now included. Voters have shown a preference for non-City Hall types for Kansas City's top office. Sly James had never served on the council. Kay Barnes had but was years removed from that work.
Both Glynn and Miller have shown prowess at fundraising.
Taylor is said to be already going door-to-door with a small army of volunteers. Wagner has a Northland base and is unchallenged there, which could prove pivotal.
Council members Jermaine Reed and Alissia Canady. Both need to demonstrate an ability to draw outside their East Side bases.
Rita Berry. "Rita Bee," as she refers to herself on her website, has deep community ties but is largely unknown.