A quick study: Get to know the candidates in Tuesday’s election for Kansas City Council

With Kansas Citians electing a new City Council on Tuesday, here are the candidates on the ballot.  

1st District

Chris Gahagan
Having received his J.D. from UMKC, Gahagan has spent his three-decades-long legal career first representing K-12 schools and then as a personal injury attorney. Back in January, The Heartlander uncovered Gahagan’s anti-religious tweets that call religion “a poison.” Nevertheless, Gahagan is endorsed by a variety of organizations, including the Uniformed Fire Officers of Kansas City. His priorities include economic development, improvement in infrastructure, job creation, public safet, and a reduction of bureaucracy.

Nathan Willett
Willett is a high school math teacher and a graduate of the University of Missouri, where he was elected student body president. As a city councilman, Willett plans to prioritize boosting public safety, making neighborhood improvements, and investing in the next generation. Willett has earned the endorsements of the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police and outgoing and term-limited District 1 Councilwoman Heather Hall. 


1st District at Large

Kevin O’Neill
O’Neill is running for re-election on the City Council and describes himself as extra sensitive to the needs and struggles of working families. He cites his decades-long career as the publisher of the Labor Beacon, a news source for over 60,000 union members in the Kansas City area. In the city’s next fiscal budget, O’Neill plans to prioritize compliance/enforcement of existing ordinances, infrastructure, public safety, and tourism. 

Ronda Smith
A real estate agent and grandmother of two, Smith is running as a conservative candidate, emphasizing the value of faith in her life. She is committed to rebuilding trust between Kansas Citians and City Hall and preventing additional government overreach. 


2nd District

Wes Rogers
A former Democratic Missouri Legislator, Rogers is running unopposed for the City Council’s 2nd District seat held by term-limited Councilman Dan Fowler. 


2nd District at Large

Lindsay French
French is a lead designer at TJP Strategies and owns her own business, L French Design. If elected, French plans to prioritize crime prevention, development of affordable housing, equitable development and the improvement of basic city services. French is endorsed by former Kansas City Mayor Sly James as well as several groups, including the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police and gun control group Moms Demand Action. 

Jenay Manley
Because of her experience as a single mother struggling to make ends meet, Manley is dedicated to ensuring all are able to make liveable wages and gain access to affordable housing. Since 2019 she has been a leader and organizer of KC Tenants, a citywide tenant union, and has gained the endorsement of KC Tenants Power, a sibling organization to KC Tenants. In addition, Manley is endorsed by Pro-Choice Missouri and the Green Party of Kansas City. 


3rd District

Melissa Robinson
An incumbent councilperson, Robinson is employed as president of the Black Health Care Coalition. Previously, Robinson served as the Director of Crisis Intervention at the Ad Hoc Group against Crime, and is a former president of the Kansas City Public Schools board. During her term as councilwoman, Robinson led the effort to establish a COVID-19 taskforce with zip code-based funding as well as an initiative to engage residents in climate action. Robinson is endorsed by KC Tenants Power.

Sheri Hall
A poet and self-proclaimed minister,Hall  is the CEO of Poetry for Personal Power. Her work emphasizes the healing power of the arts and focuses on mental health advocacy. If elected, Hall plans to improve health care access and address social determinants of health such as job and food insecurity. She says one of her goals is eliminating racist policies and practices in the district. 


3rd District At-Large

Melissa Patterson Hazley
Patterson Hazley is a Ph.D. researcher, college teacher and campaign consultant. In addition, she serves on the board of Principals Connect, a nonprofit supporting urban school principals. Patterson Hazley will focus on affordable housing if elected. Already, she has facilitated over $300 million in economic development across the city. Patterson Hazley is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus. 

Brandon Ellington
Having served on the City Council the past four years, Ellington has gained a reputation as a maverick and sole vote opposing certain issues before the council. Prior to his time on the City Council, Ellington was elected to the Missouri Legislature in 2011 and served as the Democratic Whip in the Missouri House in 2019. Ellington describes himself as an advocate for the underprivileged and disenfranchised, and supports criminal justice and tax incentive reforms. 


4th District 

Eric Bunch
Bunch, policy director and co-founder of BikeWalkKC, is seeking re-election. He plans to prioritize creating affordable housing, the promotion of equity and inclusion, and accessibility of public transportation. Bunch has earned the endorsement of several groups, including the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 42 and AFL-CIO Kansas City. 

Henry Rizzo
Henry Rizzo is a former Missouri State representative and chairman of the Jackson County Legislature. If elected, Rizzo plans to strengthen infrastructure by modernizing transportation, strengthen the community by creating affordable housing, and strengthen the economy by focusing on job growth. 


4th District At-Large 

Crispin Rea
Rea most recently worked as a prosecuting attorney in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, where he largely focused on the prosecution of sexual and physical abusers. Prior to that, Rea was employed as a case worker with the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) following his time on the Kansas City Public School Board as the youngest member ever elected to serve on the board. If elected to City Council, Rea will prioritize neighborhood safety, the improvement of basic city services, and the advancement of economic opportunity. Rea is endorsed by a variety of organizations, including Freedom Inc. and La Raza Political Club. 

Justin Short
Short became the 4th District representative on the LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City in 2020, following his seven-year stint as a cruise entertainer and director. Short prioritizes downtown’s economic development and improving the city’s basic services. He is endorsed by former Kansas City mayors Sly James and Kay Barnes, as well as the Fraternal Order of Police. 


5th District

Ryana Parks-Shaw
Parks-Shaw is running unopposed for her second term. Parks-Shaw is a healthcare executive and serves as a member of the Kansas City Zoo Board of Directors and the Starlight Board of Directors.  


5th District At-Large

Michael Kelley
Kelley is currently the policy director of BikeWalkKC and volunteers in a variety of roles, including on the Board of Directors at the InterUrban Arthouse. If elected, Kelley plans to improve public health services, create safe and affordable housing, improve infrastructure and address climate change. He is endorsed by KC Tenants Power. 

Darrel Curls
Curls recently retired as union steward at the Ford Motor Co. and currently serves as a board member of Freedom Inc. His priorities include reducing crime, building and renovating housing, creating good-paying jobs and investing in infrastructure and city services. Curls has the endorsements of former Kansas City mayors Kay Barnes and Sly James, as well as the endorsements of a variety of organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police and Freedom Inc. 


6th District

Dan Tarwater
Tarwater was first elected to the Jackson County Legislature for the 4th District in 1994. He spent the next 28 years in that role, but now works with Twin Lakes Insurance. During those 28 years, Tarwater also served as the chairman of the Anti-Drug Committee. Tarwater plans to ensure that tax dollars are spent efficiently. He is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and Freedom Inc.

Jonathan Duncan
Duncan is an Army combat veteran and director at the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In addition, Duncan organizes with the citywide tenant union KC Tenants. His priorities include affordable housing solutions, LGBTQ+ rights, gun control and reproductive rights. Duncan is endorsed by a variety of organizations, including KC Tenants Power and Pro-Choice Missouri. 


6th District At-Large 

Jill Sasse
Sasse, grandmother of five, spent over 35 years in K-12 education before retiring. Now, Sasse is running for City Council in order to prevent government overreach and give power back to the people. Her priorities also include improving public safety, advancing infrastructure and creating affordable housing. Sasse’s campaign was further covered by the Heartlander here

Andrea Bough
The incumbent, Bough is an attorney who has worked with city governments throughout her career. In addition, Bough frequently volunteers with organizations such as Harvesters and the homeless shelter Sheffield Place. If elected, she plans to expand access to safe and affordable housing, improve basic services and reduce crime. Bough is endorsed by several organizations, including Pro-Choice Missouri and Freedom Inc.


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