Talk about the audacity of youth.
At age 30, Democratic state Rep. Jason Kander of Kansas City never sought approval from party leaders before jumping into the Missouri secretary of state’s race in September. He did it just minutes after incumbent Robin Carnahan decided not seek a third term.
Kander’s speed raised eyebrows. He was viewed as just a tad too eager. Within days, he was involved in a stare-down with one of the leaders of his own party, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, who also was interested in running.
Now Kander has a clear path to the Democratic nomination, more money in the bank ($442K) than any of the three Republicans running and a pile of endorsements, including one from former Secretary of State Bekki Cook.
And he’s done it all in little more than three months.
Kander, a lawyer and former military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, is living proof these days that a new style of politics that puts little stock in “waiting your turn” can work. He is utterly unapologetic about being a man in a hurry.
“I just think when you’re the best person for the job, you should step forward,” he said.
Chutzpah? You bet.
Anyone who saw Kander in his 2008 campaign tearing around the Brookside area knew they were witnessing something rare. Kander and his wife, Diana, built an impressive grass-roots network in one of the city’s top-performing Democratic districts. Kander showed he was an unusual mix of next-door-neighbor friendly and steely determination.
He won easily, then began pushing what became his pet issue in the Missouri Capitol — campaign-finance reform. He sought a more transparent system and one that put a halt to those super-sized, $100,000 campaign donations. In his first term, he won a partial, but significant, legislative victory, and continues to push for more reforms.
In his secretary of state campaign, he pledges to be a fair arbiter when it comes to writing ballot language for initiative efforts and using the office to aid new businesses.
He knows that translating the same how-ya-doin’ ethic that proved so successful in his state rep campaigns to his statewide run will be difficult. But he’s approaching it the only way he knows how, which is with long hours. He’s put 4,400 miles on a car he bought at the end of December.
“Running statewide is about getting out there, meeting people and trying to build relationships,” he said. “It’s just fun. It’s not work. The more I do it, the more I want to do it.”
This weekend, he’s doing the southeast Missouri swing through Cape Girardeau, Sikeston and Dexter.
Go, go, go.
“I never planned to run statewide in 2012,” he said.
But now that he is, things are looking good.
“I’m extremely happy to be where we are right now.”
To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.