With seven months to go before the 2019 primary election, the eight candidates running to replace Kansas City Mayor Sly James participated in the second debate of the race Saturday afternoon at UMKC.
Since the first debate took place in September at Eastgate Middle School in North Kansas City, one candidate has left the field. Saturday's debate came just days after Jason Kander unexpectedly dropped out of the running Tuesday, citing ongoing struggles with depression and PTSD.
Councilman Jermaine Reed mentioned Kander in his closing statement.
"My thoughts and prayers are with him. It is certainly not easy for any one of us, or anyone who puts themselves out to run for public office and give of themselves, it's not easy," Reed said. "I know a lot more people will sign up and say that they want to help lead and run our city, and that's a great thing."
Reed may have been alluding to councilwoman Jolie Justus' possible reentry into the race—Justus told KCUR Tuesday she would be consulting her family and supporters, and that Kander's decision "changes the dynamics" of the race. She had dropped out of after Kander announced his candidacy in July.
Reed is in the running against fellow councilmembers Quinton Lucas, Scott Wagner, Alissia Canady and Scott Taylor, as well as construction attorney Steve Miller, businesswoman and community advocate Rita Berry, and Crossroads businessman Phil Glynn.
The questions from the Jackson County Bar Association ran the gamut, from violence and crime, jobs and education to development and taxes.
The first question asked each candidate what her or his first priority would be if elected.
Miller said his first priority would be to get the new airport terminal right. Lucas and Berry emphasized violent crime—so did Canady, who proposed creating a committee of community-level organizers from each district to tackle the issue. Glynn said his focus would be on poverty and unemployment, which overlapped with Wagner's emphasis on affordable housing. Taylor said he wants to mend relationships between neighborhoods and City Hall. And Reed, referencing the senate confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh happening around the same time in Washington, D.C., talked about shaping a good local administration to serve local needs.
The candidates agreed on most issues raised, with some variation on questions about the effectiveness of KC NoVA, an anti-violence effort from the police and prosecutor's office, and whether Kansas City should move to establish local, rather than state, control of its police department.
There were also a variety of responses on whether Kansas City should become a sanctuary city, or, in other words, a municipal jurisdiction that limits cooperation with government when it comes to enforcing immigration laws, although each candidate voiced support for immigrants and touted the benefits they bring to Kansas City's communities and local economy.
Kansas City, Missouri, voters can expect many more debates to come between now and the April 2 primary vote. The top two candidates will advance to the general election, held in June.