KC’s attempt to defund police prompts endorsements of eight pro-law-enforcement candidates in heated Kansas City Council races

A thwarted effort to recall the Kansas City mayor and several council members for trying to defund the police has evolved into a new movement to elect a more law-enforcement-supportive council.

A political action committee called KC Citizens for Public Safety is endorsing a slate of eight pro-police city council candidates for the April 4 municipal election. The candidates are:

In-district (voted on only by district voters):

1st District: Nathan Willett https://www.nathanforthenorthland.com/

4th District: Henry Rizzo https://rizzoforthecity.com/

6th District: Dan Tarwater https://www.votetarwater.com/

At-large (voted on by all city voters):

1st District: Ronda Smith https://rondasmithforkc.com/

2nd District: Mickey Younghanz https://mo4mickey.com/

4th District: Grace Cabrera https://gracecabrera.com/

5th District: Theresa Cass Galvin https://theresacassgalvin.com/

6th District: Jill Sasse https://www.jillsasseforkc.com/

“We hope to get all of these people in a seat for City Council,” says citizen activist Shannon Bjornlie, who helped lead the recall effort and is also heading up KC Citizens for Public Safety. “They are all like-minded people. They’re pro public safety. They want to fix our infrastructure issues.

“They’re all against a lot of the secret meetings that the mayor has. They’re not afraid to stand up to the mayor. He doesn’t scare them. These are people that I believe will never be intimidated by him.”

The group also is against passing ordinances the same day they’re introduced to the public – a tactic that was used to try to suddenly siphon off $42 million from the police budget in 2021. A judge later ruled it was an illegal move by Mayor Quinton Lucas and eight of the 12 council members, since the Kansas City Police Department budget had already been set.

“They’re people who are not going to go for the same-day pass,” Bjornlie says of the eight endorsed candidates. “They’re all going to do what’s best, not only just for their constituents, but just the city in general.”

KC Citizens for Public Safety is hoping to gather support for the eight candidates through its Facebook page and other social media, as well as door-to-door canvassing. Bjornlie says the recall effort also raised awareness of the need to support police – and resulted in thousands of citizen signatures in favor of law enforcement.

“While we didn’t meet our goal (on recall signatures), I don’t consider it unsuccessful because we made people aware of what was going on. And now we have a whole group of (supporters).  

“It’s been a long time since Kansas City has had a group of (candidates) who go, ‘OK, enough’s enough. We are all going to run.’ We have really good candidates running. And you know, usually people don’t step up and run.”

Yet, it’s also necessary for pro-police voters to get out and vote April 4, she said.

“One in four Northlanders vote. We could change the entire election if two of four voted. Northlanders have more of a say than they realize, and they just don’t get out and vote.”

How does Kansas City look different if these eight candidates sweep into office?

“Oh my gosh, in so many ways,” Bjornlie says. “First of all, we’re going to have a City Council that’s pro public safety, that will support our police and hopefully help them. We’re down so many officers. Hopefully they’ll help with getting our staffing back up. I hope that they’ll work better with the chief than the current council has worked with the chief in the past. 

“I think they’re all real go-getters. Instead of pet projects, I think we’ll get stuff that benefits the entire city. I just think it’s just going to be better all the way around. (A reduction in) wasteful spending; the support that law enforcement needs. Instead of being fought against all the time, (police) will actually have some people in their corner.”

With a Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry poll citing crime as one of business owners’ top overall concerns, support for police is on the rise. Indeed, in response to KC’s effort to strip police funding, the Missouri Legislature last year passed a law – and the state’s voters in November affirmed it – to set a minimum police budget at 25% of Kansas City’s general revenue fund.

“The areas that have the highest crime,” Bjornlie says, “you would think that those people of all people would want some change.

“I do think people want change. Just being out there, doing the recall and talking to people in all areas of the city – not everybody we talked to, of course, but a lot of people – roughly 10,000 people we could get to wanted change. 

“They weren’t happy with how things go. And it doesn’t matter where we were in the city. Nobody was happy.”

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