KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Less than three months into his candidacy to become Kansas City’s next mayor, Jason Kander has decided to withdrawal from the race so that he can focus on mental health issues.

“So after 11 years of trying to outrun depression and PTSD symptoms, I have finally concluded that it’s faster than me. That I have to stop running, turn around, and confront it,” Kander wrote. “I finally went to the VA in Kansas City yesterday and have started the process to get help there regularly. To allow me to concentrate on my mental health, I’ve decided that I will not be running for mayor of Kansas City.”  

Kander — who is a former Army captain who served in Afghanistan, has previously served Kansas City in the state legislature, was elected Missouri Secretary of State in 2012, and was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016 — has been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party nationally.

Before he entered the race to become Kansas City’s next mayor, there was talk of Kander running in the 2020 presidential election.

Other candidates in Kansas City mayoral race include Scott Wagner, Rita Berry, Phil Glynn, Jermaine Reed, Alissia Canady, Scott Taylor, Steve Miller, and Quinton Lucas.

Jolie Justus withdrew her bid following Kander’s announcement in June saying she will instead seek re-election to her city council seat. Kander’s withdrawal raises questions on Justus’ path forward, if she’ll re-enter the race or continue her re-election bid.

Kander did say that this is not “goodbye” from him.

“Once I work through my mental health challenges, I fully intend to be working shoulder to shoulder with all of you again,” wrote Kander. “But I’m passing my oar to you for a bit. I hope you’ll grab it and fight like hell to make this country the place we know it can be.”

In his letter announcing his withdrawal from the race, Kander described his personal struggles with accepting the lasting effects on his tour in Afghanistan and how that has led to his decision regarding politics.

“It had been about 11 years since I left Afghanistan as an Army Intelligence Officer, and my tour over there still impacted me every day,” he wrote. “So many men and women who served our country did so much more than me and were in so much more danger than I was on my four-month tour. I can’t have PTSD, I told myself, because I didn’t earn it.”

In his letter, he noted that by all appearance, life was in his favor the last few months. His first book became a New York Times Bestseller, his Let America Vote initiative has been effective, and he was out-fundraising the other candidates.

“But instead of celebrating that accomplishment, I found myself on the phone with the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line, tearfully conceding that, yes, I have had suicidal thoughts. And it wasn’t the first time,” Kander wrote.

“So after 11 years of trying to outrun depression and PTSD symptoms, I have finally concluded that it’s faster than me. That I have to stop running, turn around, and confront it.”

Kander said that he will be focusing on getting better, which is why he is withdrawing from the race. He noted he also is taking a step back from the day-to-day operations at Let America Vote.

“I wish I would have sought help sooner, so if me going public with my struggle makes just one person seek assistance, doing this publicly is worth it to me,” Kander wrote. “The VA Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255, and non-veterans can use that number as well.”

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.