Published June 21st, 2023 at 9:54 AM5 minute read
Kansas City has a new City Council after thousands of voters hit the polls Tuesday.
Mayor Quinton Lucas sailed into a second term with 80.6% of the vote, according to final unofficial results from Kansas City, Platte and Clay County election offices. His opponent was Clay Chastain, a perennial candidate who often runs for office but never wins.
“We know that we are going to make sure that the progress and the optimism we see in Kansas City today exists in every neighborhood of our city and indeed all throughout the region,” Lucas said in a victory speech Tuesday evening at the American Jazz Museum.
Five sitting council members running for re-election also won their races, netting them another four-year term. That means more than half of the city council seats will welcome a new face.
Turnout was 13% for Tuesday’s general municipal election in precincts south of the Missouri river, slightly lower than the 14% turnout during the April primaries. Turnout was 10.5% in Clay County and 13.5% in Platte County.
Tuesday’s results were a first test of the influence of KC Tenants Power, the political organizing arm of the KC Tenants. Of the six candidates the group endorsed, four won their races.
The group hoped to send two political newcomers to City Council: Jenay Manley in the 2nd District at-large and Johnathan Duncan for the 6th in-district seat. Only Duncan won his race, beating former Jackson County legislator Dan Tarwater, 56.5% to 43.5%.
In a statement following the election results, KC Tenants Power said the results were evidence of a “new day” in Kansas City.
“We are building a durable, long term organization to redefine the future of Kansas City. Winning is not about one election, one candidate, or one issue — winning means a better Kansas City, one where poor and working class people have the power to make decisions that impact their lives,” the statement said.
The new City Council will tackle issues like an affordable housing shortage and increasing gun violence plus big-ticket developments on the horizon, like a potential downtown baseball stadium, the 2026 World Cup and an urban park above a portion of the downtown loop.
Here are the winners from Tuesday’s election, based on final unofficial election results:
Kevin O’Neill was running for a second term and beat his opponent, Ronda Smith, 72% to 28%.
O’Neill is a strong advocate for unions, labor rights and the Northland. He was the longtime publisher and editor of the Kansas City Labor Beacon. Ronda Smith works for a management firm in accounting and previously worked in the real estate industry.
Lindsay French beat her opponent Jenay Manley, a KC Tenants Power-endorsed candidate, 52% to 48%.
French’s campaign treasurer is Scott Wagner, who served two City Council terms and is now a Clay County Commissioner. French says she would be a problem solver and common-sense coalition builder. She is a member of the Northland Regional Chamber and was endorsed by Freedom Inc., the Citizens Association, and the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO along with other civic, construction trade and labor groups. Manley has been a leader and organizer for KC Tenants and hoped to be the first Black representative from the Northland on the council.
Melissa Patterson Hazley beat her opponent, incumbent Brandon Ellington, 61% to 40%.
Hazley is a researcher, college teacher and campaign consultant. She serves on the Central City Economic Development Sales Tax Board and says she would be a collaborative voice for positive change. Her priorities include diverse and affordable housing options, well-paying jobs, enhanced public safety, improved basic services and opportunities for youth, including support for the public schools. Ellington was the only incumbent on the City Council to lose his re-election bid. Before he was elected to the council, he served on the Missouri House of Representatives.
Crispin Rea beat his opponent Justin Short, 57% to 43%.
Rea served on the Kansas City School Board in the early 2000s and has been one of the few Latinos to serve in Kansas City elective office. With his win, he is now the first Latino elected to the Kansas City Council in 30 years. He was a caseworker with the Kansas City No Violence Alliance before becoming an assistant prosecuting attorney. He has served seven years in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, mostly with the Special Victims Unit. He volunteers with the Mattie Rhodes Center and the Police Athletic League. His priorities include safe neighborhoods, strong basic services, small business development and job creation. He was endorsed by various labor groups, La Raza and Freedom Inc. Short grew up in the Northland and is the 4th District’s representative on the LGBTQ Commission.
Darrell Curls beat his opponent, BikeWalkKC Policy Director Michael Kelley, 56% to 44%.
Curls served nine years on the Hickman Mills School Board but resigned in 2017 because of what he said was too much board turmoil and turnover. He is a member of the South Kansas City Alliance and the Northland Chamber. He recently retired from Ford Motor Co., where he was a union steward. His priorities include improved city services such as trash collection, reduced crime, affordable housing and well-paying jobs. Kelley is a member of Kansas City’s Environmental Management Commission. His priorities included strengthening public health services, addressing homelessness and affordable housing needs, improving basic infrastructure and addressing climate change.
Incumbent Andrea Bough beat her opponent, Jill Sasse, 72% to 28%.
Bough is a lawyer who specializes in commercial real estate, land use and development. Her priorities include strong city services, violent crime prevention and tenant advocacy. Notably, Bough helped pass a city ordinance that guarantees free attorneys to tenants who end up in eviction court. Sasse is a longtime public school teacher, whose priorities included public safety, neighborhood livability and stopping local government overreach.
Nathan Willett beat his opponent Chris Gahagan, 63% to 37%.
Willett is a Park Hill School District math teacher who also taught in Kansas City Public Schools. From May 2020 to July 2021 he was a research assistant with the Show-Me Institute, a St. Louis-based free-market think tank. Gahagan spent his legal career representing school districts and injured individuals. He has been active in the Northland Chamber and Clay County Economic Development Council and is endorsed by many labor groups.
Wes Rogers ran unopposed for the 2nd in-district seat, which encompasses most neighborhoods in Kansas City’s Northland south of Barry Road. He is a lawyer and served as a Democrat in the Missouri House of Representatives from 2019 to 2023 for District 18, which includes a portion of the Northland.
Incumbent Melissa Robinson beat her opponent, local poet and author Sheri Hall, 84% to 16%.
Robinson is president of the Black Health Care Coalition, a former president of the Kansas City Public Schools board and former director of crisis intervention with the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime. She recently sponsored legislation to create a commission to explore reparations for Black Kansas Citians. Robinson says poverty is one of the most important issues in Kansas City. Hall said some of the biggest issues facing Kansas City are public safety and the redirection of housing and infrastructure funds from her district.
Incumbent Eric Bunch beat his opponent, Henry Rizzo, 67% to 33%.
Bunch recently sponsored legislation overhauling the city’s short-term rental program and imposing stricter rules on short-term rental operators. Bunch advocates for affordable housing, pedestrian safety, public transit and infrastructure improvements that increase safety for bikers and pedestrians. Rizzo is a former Missouri state representative and Jackson County legislator.
Ryana Parks-Shaw ran unopposed in this race and will serve a second term on the council. Parks-Shaw has supported anti-violence legislation, including allocating $40 million to the Blueprint for Violence Prevention Fund over the next five years. She was also part of the city’s efforts to address homelessness and provide shelter for unhoused people.
Johnathan Duncan beat former Jackson County legislator Dan Tarwater, 57% to 44%.
Duncan is an Iraq War veteran and administrative operations director at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a nonprofit veterans service organization. He also serves as a leader with KC Tenants, a union for working class tenants in the city. Duncan said the biggest issue facing Kansas City is affordable housing. Tarwater served as the 4th District Legislator on the Jackson County Legislature from 1994 to 2022, where he was the chairman of the Anti-Drug Committee for 28 years.