If there is a more nakedly ambitious Democrat in America than former Missouri secretary of state and would-be Kansas City mayor Jason Kander, his name does not pop quickly to mind.
His head turned by a respectable loss to the diminishingly popular Sen. Roy Blunt in 2016, Kander set his sights on national office. As early as January 2017, long time Kansas City Star editorialist turned blogger Yael Abouhalkah was writing of Kander, likely at Kander’s urging, “Jason Kander is a young, articulate, thoughtful, progressive Democrat and, yes, he might be presidential in 2020.”
In the summer of 2017, Politico’s Bridget Mulchay said about Kander, “To hear Democrats from Barack Obama on down tell it, Kander is the future of the party: young, energetic, an insistently progressive lawyer from a red state, a devoutly anti-Trump military veteran … and, like the Democratic Party, not currently anywhere near power.”
Now, there was the rub. As one high-ranking Dem told Politico, “He’s a winning commodity—but there’s no elected position for him.” Kander made himself popular nationally by doing exactly the opposite of what Sen. Claire McCaskill has been doing: namely feeding progressive audiences all the red meat they could eat.
Kander had had nothing to lose. As Mulcahy also noted, some Missouri Democrats were hoping “he’d run instead of top GOP target Claire McCaskill.”
With McCaskill thwarting Kander’s desires to make Missouri a stepping stone to the presidency, Kander has had to lower his sights–considerably.
A source has told KCUR that Kander is contemplating a run for mayor of Kansas City in 2019. Apparently, someone from U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s staff told KCUR in an email that former Kansas City mayor Cleaver “did speak with Jason Kander about his mayoral plans.”
A Kander spokesman said that Kander was “deciding how he can best serve.” Cynics might say he could best serve by getting a real job, but if he chooses the mayoral route, he will find that route as crowded as I-35 on a Monday morning. Eight candidates, five of them City Council people, all of them Democrats or something like it, have already announced.
If the competition were not obstacle enough, history is working against Kander’s ambitions. Although many mayors have run for the presidency, Martin O’Malley and Rudy Giuliani most recently, only two mayors have made it to the White House, and the last mayor to make it was Calvin Coolidge.