Kander Exits KC Mayoral Race

Despite perceived front-runner status, candidate calls it quits to focus on treatment for depression, PTSD.

Jason Kander, a rising Democratic Party star who surprised pundits nationwide last summer by launching his campaign for Kansas City mayor, announced today that he had ended that campaign to seek treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I can’t work on myself and run a campaign the way I want to at the same time, so I’m choosing to work on my depression.” -- Jason Kander

A veteran of combat in Afghanistan, Kander said in a letter on his campaign web site that he had been dealing with the psychological impact of that experience since leaving the country more than a decade ago.

“About four months ago, I contacted the VA to get help,” he wrote. It had been about 11 years since I left Afghanistan as an Army Intelligence Officer, and my tour over there still impacted me every day. So many men and women who served our country did so much more than me and were in so much more danger than I was on my four-month tour. I can’t have PTSD, I told myself, because I didn’t earn it.”

After challenging himself to contact the VA, he said, he attempted to hold off on treatment options out of fear that it might harm his political future. “That was stupid, and things have gotten even worse since,” Kander wrote. “I’m done hiding this from myself and from the world. When I wrote in my book that I was lucky to not have PTSD, I was just trying to convince myself. And I wasn’t sharing the full picture. I still have nightmares. I am depressed.”

It was time, he said, “to stop running, turn around, and confront it.” He went to the VA on Monday to start the process for regular treatment.

“I’ve decided that I will not be running for mayor of Kansas City,” he said, even though he was considered a front-runner, and a well-financed one, at that. “I truly appreciate all the support so many people in Kansas City and across the country have shown me since I started this campaign. But I can’t work on myself and run a campaign the way I want to at the same time, so I’m choosing to work on my depression.”

His political story, however, isn’t likely finished.

“I’ll close by saying this isn’t goodbye,” wrote the former U.S. Senate candidate, who once was the nation’s youngest statewide office holder as Missouri’s secretary of state. “Once I work through my mental-health challenges, I fully intend to be working shoulder to shoulder with all of you again. But I’m passing my oar to you for a bit. I hope you’ll grab it and fight like hell to make this country the place we know it can be.”

His exodus still leaves a crowded field for the 2019 mayoral primary, with five members of the City Council still in contention.

Posted 2:15 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018