Jason Kander is withdrawing from the Kansas City mayoral race, saying he needs to address lingering depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“After 11 years of trying to outrun depression and PTSD symptoms … I have to stop running, turn around, and confront it,” Kander wrote in a blog post Tuesday announcing the decision.
Kander, who served a four-month tour of duty in Afghanistan as an Army intelligence officer more than a decade ago, said he has dealt with depression and PTSD ever since.
His departure from the 2019 mayoral race leaves a prominent void in a crowded field.
Kander, 37, announced his candidacy in June, surprising some by turning his focus to city politics after spending the better part of two years enhancing his national profile.
He got his start in politics as a Democratic state representative from Kansas City before being elected Missouri Secretary of State in 2012. Kander served one term in office before running for U.S. Senate in 2016. He lost that race to Sen. Roy Blunt, the Republican incumbent, but outperformed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by a wide margin in Missouri and garnered national buzz for a campaign ad in which he assembled a firearm blindfolded while advocating for background checks.
Kander said he went to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Kansas City this week and “started the process to get help there regularly.”
In response to Tuesday’s announcement, Kansas City councilmen and mayoral candidates Scott Wagner and Quinton Lucas both voiced concern and support for Kander, the Kansas City Star reports.
Another onetime mayoral hopeful, Jolie Justis, dropped out of the race after Kander’s June entrance. On Tuesday, Justis, a Kansas City councilwoman and former state senator, told the Star she would likely make a decision about whether to re-enter the race “within the next week or so.”
Filing for the race takes place in December and January, so candidates still have time to declare.
Although Kander is stepping away from the mayor’s race, he wrote in the blog post that he hopes to eventually return to public service.
“I’ll close by saying this isn’t goodbye,” Kander said. “Once I work through my mental health challenges, I fully intend to be working shoulder to shoulder with all of you again.”