7 things to know about hometown political rising star Jason Kander
Jason Kander, born 36 years ago in Overland Park and a 1999 graduate of Bishop Miege High School who now calls Kansas City, Missouri, home, is a hometown guy with a growing national presence. After losing a shockingly close race last November to oust Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt from office, Kander has not gone quietly into oblivion. He’s been busy crossing the country to promote his Let America Vote nonprofit and speaking before groups about the future of the Democratic Party. This national exposure has prompted lots of press attention, with Politico dubbing him “the hottest star in Democratic politics” and a McClatchy Washington Bureau headline even asking, “President Jason Kander?”
It’s no surprise to Elaine Schmidtberger, Kander’s guidance counselor when he was a student at Miege, that he has become a political rising star. She recalls he was a force on the debate team.
“I love Jason,” she says. “He’s so great. He’s witty. He was always more mature than a lot of the high school boys. He was very goal-setting.”
When he is asked often about his future political plans, he simply replies that he’s busy promoting his voting-rights group — for now. Although he’s never held higher political office than Missouri secretary of state, his recent activity indicates his interest in playing a significant role in national Democratic politics. Some political insiders have even suggested that, despite his loss for the U.S. Senate seat, his resulting increased profile has been ultimately good for a party sorely in need of next-generation leaders. No matter your political leanings, the scenario warrants keeping an eye on this man with a plan yet to be revealed.
► He rose to national prominence thanks to a viral ad showing him assembling a rifle blindfolded.
► He outperformed Hillary Clinton by 16 percentage points in Missouri and picked up more than 200,000 crossover Donald Trump voters.
► Kander’s chances in the near future for a Missouri seat seem slim, therefore a run for a national office may be more likely. Kander, married to his high school sweetheart, lives with her and their young son in a House district occupied by former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver, 72, who doesn’t seem interested in retirement. Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill is up for re-election next year, but Kander has dismissed rumors of a challenge. However, Kander could challenge Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens in 2020 or go after Blunt’s seat again in 5 1/2 years.
► However, if the Democratic party wins back the White House in 2020, Kander may set his sights on an appointment in the administration. Among his made trips are two recent ones to political hotspots Iowa and New Hampshire, triggering speculation he may be angling for an office higher office than governor or senator.
► Kander, born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, is a graduate of American University in Washington. After the 9/11 terror attacks, he joined the Army and served in Afghanistan. His political career kicked off in 2008, when he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, becoming the first millennial to hold statewide office in the country. He then had a successful campaign for secretary of state.
► Kander is candid about his liberal leanings. “I wasn’t out there pretending I was a conservative Democrat,” he told Politico recently. “I’m somebody who has talked a lot about and has done the act of running as who you are. You know, making a progressive argument, even in red states, and then did very well doing that.”
► If he does run for president in 2020, he’ll only be 39—seven years younger than Barack Obama was in 2008.