Tonight, Kansas City, Mo., could become the fourth major U.S. city to elect a lesbian mayor this year.
Jolie Justus, a former Missouri state senator and current City Council member, is vying with fellow City Council member Quinton Lucas to become mayor of the state’s most populous city. They were the top two finishers among 11 candidates in a nonpartisan primary in April, with Justus finishing about four percentage points ahead of Lucas.
If Justus wins tonight, she will follow in the footsteps of Lori Lightfoot in Chicago, Satya Rhodes-Conway in Madison, Wis., and Jane Castor in Tampa, Fla., all lesbians elected this year to lead their cities.
Justus and Lucas are running to replace Mayor Sly James, who is term-limited. He has endorsed Justus, as has former Mayor Kay Barnes. Justus also has the endorsements of the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ Victory Fund. Lucas has been endorsed by The Kansas City Star, the city’s firefighters union, and the African-American group Freedom Inc., among others, Ballotpedia reports.
Lucas was leading Justus in early polls, but now the race has become a toss-up. A Remington Research poll published this month showed 42 percent of voters preferring Lucas and 39 percent for Justus, with 19 percent undecided. With a 4.6 percentage point margin of error, the poll means the candidates are statistically tied.
The race has seen some negative campaigning, but Justus’s sexual orientation has not been an issue, and both have objected to negative moves by outside groups. Justus has portrayed Lucas as untrustworthy, but she did criticize a flier sent out by a carpenters’ union supporting her that used a dark, grainy photo of him. Lucas, who is African-American, thought the choice of photo was racist. Justus agreed that the photo was “racially insensitive and in poor taste,” and the union apologized for it, the Star reports. Lucas also denounced negative campaigning by his supporters against Justus, including a political action committee’s ad that accused her of being too cozy with monied interests.
Justus has emphasized her closeness with Mayor James and willingness to build on his record, while Lucas has positioned himself as an outsider who can make change. In endorsing Lucas, the Star said both he and Justus “are smart, progressive lawyers running for heart-in-the-right-place reasons,” but Lucas “is more apt to accomplish any item on the difficult change agenda they both talk about,” such as bringing more affordable housing to the city.