KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jason Kander has officially announced his intention to run for the mayor of Kansas City.

Kander — who is a former Army captain who served in Afghanistan, has previously served Kansas City in the state legislature and was elected Missouri Secretary of State in 2012 — has been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party.

His campaign for mayor is scheduled to kick off on July 14, 2018. Running for mayor puts to bed rumors that Kander will make of bid for the U.S. presidency in 2020.

“We’ll know Kansas City is at its absolute best when no one feels they have to move from one part of the city to another, or out of town altogether, to live the life they want and deserve,” said Kander. “I’m running for mayor of Kansas City because I want to make sure no matter where you live in the city or how you grew up, you have a chance to build a successful life right here.”

“Kansas Citians deserve a mayor who can guide the progress already underway in our city and help us reach the next level. I’m eager to take the reins on major issues that have developed in recent years – like building the new airport, implementing the infrastructure improvements voters approved through the GO Bonds, and expanding the streetcar. And I want to make sure we continue addressing critical issues like economic inequality, crime, inclusive housing and economic development, and access to a quality education for every child in the city.”

In a statement, Kander said he also wants to tackle problems that “aren’t talked about enough.” He mentions that too many streets in Kansas City aren’t well lit and are therefore less safe and that too many residents don’t have convenient access to grocery stores, banks, and other basic services.

Kander also believes there should be more racial and gender equity in city contracts and programs. City services – from fixing bridges, roads and potholes to customer service across departments – can always be more efficient.

“Under Mayor James’ leadership, Kansas City has made great progress, and it is crucial that whoever follows him builds on that success. That isn’t a short-term project, so our city needs a mayor committed to the job for the long haul,” said Kander. “If I’m elected, Kansas Citians can count on me to work tirelessly for them every day for four years, and, if they’ll have me, four more years after that.”

Kander’s confirmation that he intends to run for mayor, brings the number of contenders to nine. Other candidates for the spot currently include Scott Wagner, Rita Berry, Phil Glynn, Jermaine Reed, Alissia Canady, Scott Taylor, Steve Miller, and Quinton Lucas.

Jolie Justus withdrew her bid for mayor following Kander’s announcement saying she will instead seek re-election to her city council seat.

“I have dedicated my entire career to serving the people of Kansas City. It would be easy to put my own interests first and turn this election cycle into a long, expensive, and divisive fight, but that does not serve the best interests of the people of Kansas City,” Justus said. “I’ve known Jason for a long time and we share a common vision for our city. I look forward to the future we create together.”

Justus is now backing Kander’s candidacy for mayor. His campaign announcement came with several endorsements from Kansas Citians including former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, Missouri House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, state Sen. John Rizzo, state Rep. Jon Carpenter, businesswoman CiCi Rojas and current Kansas City council members Kevin McManus and Teresa Loar.

“Kansas City deserves a Mayor who can deliver results for everyone across the city from the start, and I believe that’s Jason Kander,” Barnes said. “I know that if elected mayor, he will provide effective and steady leadership for our city for years to come, and I’m confident that he’s the best person to keep Kansas City moving forward.”

“ I believe as mayor he can turn his passion into progress for every Kansas Citian and I’m thrilled to stand with him in this campaign,” said Dr. Emanuel Cleaver III, Senior Pastor of St. James United Methodist Church.

“Kansas Citians can trust Jason to lead us into the next phase of our growth without leaving any part of the city behind. There’s a lot going on in Kansas City right now, and we need a mayor that is up for the challenge. Jason Kander is that person, and I’m proud to support his campaign,” said Jim Heeter, a former member of the Kansas City Council and President and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.