KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 34-year-old man whose family was homeless at times during his childhood in Kansas City, Missouri, will become the city's 55th mayor, and he's calling it "the accomplishment of a lifetime."
"If you were ever homeless on the east side, you didn't necessarily see yourself on the top floor of city hall," Quinton Lucas told FOX4. "It's a great story--no matter where you're from--about perseverance, about working hard, about the value of an education, believing in yourself and believing in your mission."
Lucas won academic scholarships to a prestigious private school in Kansas City and then to Washington University in St. Louis and Cornell Law School. He is a practicing attorney and a member of the University of Kansas law faculty. He was endorsed by the police and firefighters' unions.
Voters on Tuesday chose Lucas over fellow City Council member Jolie Justus in a mayoral runoff, according to unofficial results that showed him with a commanding lead. Lucas will assume office in August, replacing Sly James, another black mayor who served two four-year terms.
Just hours after winning the election, Lucas joined FOX4 Wednesday during the 8 a.m. newscast to chat about the win.
"I think it showed regardless of party, regardless of location in the city, people were really saying we like your message, we like the public safety message--fixing potholes and taking care of long-term issues in Kansas City," Lucas said.
Lucas credited his positive campaign and focus on getting things done with helping him win.
The mayor-elect said he is ready to get to work, and even before campaigning he has been working with the mayors of surrounding cities to breakdown the divide.
"Crime doesn't stop at state lines, poverty doesn't--all of the challenges we deal with--quite frankly infrastructure issues," Lucas said. "When you talk about the Buck O'Neil Bridge for example, lots of people in lots of cities are traveling that each day. So, I plan to from the start kind of say we are working together."
Both Lucas and Justus are attorneys with similar voting records during their first terms on the City Council. During the campaign, both said their top priorities were reducing crime, increasing affordable housing and spreading development projects across the city. Although the election was officially nonpartisan, both candidates are Democrats.
During six debates leading up to Tuesday's vote, Lucas and Justus offered different approaches to some of their top priorities. Lucas cast himself as an outsider to city government who wanted to fundamentally change how the city provides basic services and distributes tax incentives to encourage development. He said Justus was too close to developers and to James, and said she would continue policies that shortchanged impoverished areas, particularly the east side.
Lucas was the primary sponsor of an ordinance that caps tax abatements or other tax incentives for development at 75%, with some exceptions. Developers had been able to get up to 100% property tax abatement on certain projects, which led to criticism from some that the city awarded tax breaks for private projects too often. Some developers and city officials opposed the plan, concerned it might slow Kansas City's growth and pursuit of development projects.
Justus was chairwoman of the city's airport committee, which ended a nearly seven-year effort to bring a modern single-terminal airport to Kansas City. She acknowledged mistakes were made early in the process when a no-bid deal was considered without public knowledge to allow Burns & McDonnell to build the privately financed single terminal airport. After severe criticism, the no-bid contract was dropped and the city went through a competitive bidding process.