KC Tenants leader wins council seat

Published: Jun. 20, 2023 at 10:24 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A group that started only four years ago as a tenant’s union quickly turned into a household name, endorsing a slate of candidates for the 2023 city council elections.

Tuesday night, four of the six candidates endorsed by KC Tenants Power won their races. The most notable win for the group was in the 6th District.

Johnathan Duncan, a leader with KC Tenants, defeated Dan Tarwater, who spent decades as a Jackson County legislator.

“Today the 6th District chose people over profit. We chose a progressive vision for Kansas City,” Duncan said in a statement. “When I first entered this race, no one thought we stood a chance against an entrenched opposition backed by profiteers.”

Populist political organization KC Tenants Power was created in 2022 as an offshoot of the KC Tenants union, which was formed only four years ago.

They endorsed six candidates based on issues like environmental sustainability, LGBTQ rights, and their number one: affordable housing.

Members of KC Tenants could be seen often at city hall in their yellow shirts with yellow signs. Last year, they succeeded in getting the city to create its first ever “Right to Counsel” program, providing free legal assistance to people facing eviction.

The slate of candidates they endorsed are, in some cases, the opposite of who got endorsements from a long-standing local group.

Freedom, Inc. is a political organization that aims “to improve the quality of life for African Americans.” They’ve been around for 60 years.

KC Tenants Power endorsed Jenay Manley and Johnathan Duncan as “champions.” They endorsed Eric Bunch and Michael Kelley as “allies.” In those four races, Freedom, Inc. endorsed their opponents: Lindsay French, Dan Tarwater, Henry Rizzo, and Darrell Curls. Rizzo was a state lawmaker for 18 years. Tarwater was Jackson County legislator for 28 years.

“That’s really what it comes down to is, like, it’s time for a new breath of air in Kansas City,” said KC Tenants Power organizer Damien Murphy.

“I’m excited for us to keep going,” said KC Tenants Power organizer DaJanae Moreland. “We know that this election -- no matter what happens, win or lose -- it isn’t the end-all be-all. We’re going to continue to organize. We’re going to continue to knock on our neighbor’s doors. And, it doesn’t stop here.”

The other three winning candidates endorsed by KC Tenants Power were incumbents.

Jenay Manley, another KC Tenants leader who ran for an open seat, lost the 2nd District At-Large race to Lindsay French. Had she been elected, she would have been the first Black councilperson in the Northland.