Jason Kander Withdraws From Kansas City Mayor's Race, Citing Depression

The Army veteran said he had long ignored working on his mental health.

Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, announced Tuesday he was ending his campaign for Kansas City mayor to deal with depression and symptoms from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Kander, a 37-year-old Army veteran, made the announcement in a statement in which he revealed he still had nightmares and was afraid to confront the possibility he had PTSD. But recently, Kander wrote, he knew he had to deal with his symptoms. When he found out last week he had set a fundraising record for a Kansas City mayoral campaign, he said he wound up on the Veterans Administration’s Veterans Crisis Line discussing his suicidal thoughts.

“Instead of dealing with these issues, I’ve always tried to find a way around them. Most recently, I thought that if I could come home and work for the city I love so much as its mayor, I could finally solve my problems,” he wrote. “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.”

“I finally went to the VA in Kansas City yesterday and have started the process to get help there regularly,” he continued. “I can’t work on myself and run a campaign the way I want to at the same time, so I’m choosing to work on my depression.”

Kander also announced he would be stepping back from the day-to-day operations of Let America Vote, a voting rights group he started in 2017. The group targets politicians who support voting restrictions across the country and supports candidates who make voting easier. Last year, the Democratic National Committee also tapped Kander to lead a commission to push back on President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Kander enlisted in the military in 2003 and served as an intelligence officer in the Army in Afghanistan. He served as Missouri’s secretary of state from 2012 to 2016, when he unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) for his seat. The close race put Kander on the national stage and he gained attention with a viral ad that showed him putting together a rifle blindfolded. Before he launched his mayoral campaign, Kander was talked about as a possible contender for the White House in 2020.

In his statement, Kander said he wanted to reveal the reason he was leaving the race to encourage other people to seek help if they have mental health issues.

“I decided to be public for two reasons: First, I think being honest will help me through this. And second, I hope it helps veterans and everyone else across the country working through mental health issues realize that you don’t have to try to solve it on your own,” he wrote. “Most people probably didn’t see me as someone that could be depressed and have had PTSD symptoms for over decade, but I am and I have. If you’re struggling with something similar, it’s OK. That doesn’t make you less of a person.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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