Jason Kander, a former Army intelligence officer who is considered a rising star of the Democratic Party, announced Tuesday that he was pulling out of the race for mayor of Kansas City, saying that he was suffering from PTSD and depression from a stint in Afghanistan.
Kander, 37, made the announcement in a letter he posted online, saying that he was done “trying to outrun depression and PTSD symptoms” that he traced back 11 years to a four-month tour in the Middle East.
“I’m done hiding this from myself and from the world,” Kander said. “When I wrote in my book that I was lucky to not have PTSD, I was just trying to convince myself. And I wasn’t sharing the full picture. I still have nightmares. I am depressed.”
Kander, Missouri’s former secretary of state, rose to national prominence with a quirky campaign ad in a bid to unseat Sen. Roy Blunt (R) in 2016. According to The Post’s Ben Terris, “Kander was widely considered the best Democratic recruit running for Senate.”
He had the look: young and fit, a guy comfortable in a skinny tie or fatigues. He had the life story: Married to his high school sweetheart, he had joined the military after 9/11, served in Afghanistan and came home to enter politics, eventually becoming the first millennial to hold statewide office in the country.
He lost a close race but has remained in the limelight since. He founded Let America Vote, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ousting Republicans working for more restrictive voting laws around the country, and has been an active liberal presence on social media. Kander had previously said that he was considering a run for president in 2020.
Kander was a likely favorite in the 2019 mayoral race, according to the Associated Press. But he wrote that his achievements — a best-selling book, some early signs of success in his bid for mayor, the work of the nonprofit organization — had done little to alleviate his symptoms.
Despite finding out last week that he had raised more money in a quarter than any Kansas City mayoral candidate previously, Kander wrote that he found himself calling the Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Crisis Line, “tearfully conceding that, yes, I have had suicidal thoughts.”
“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 said. “I thought if I focused exclusively on service to my neighbors in my hometown, that I could fill the hole inside of me. But it’s just getting worse.”
Kander said he would also be stepping back from day-to-day operations at Let America Vote. He said he has started the process of getting more regular help from VA in Kansas City, and wrote that he hoped sharing his story would inspire others to seek help for their own issues.