Manny Abarca, wife Alexis and daughter Camila, Jackson County KCMO Democratic Candidate District 1, northeast KC resident
Manny Abarca, wife Alexis and daughter Camila. Photo courtesy of Manny Abarca.

By Abby Hoover

Democrat Manny Abarca IV announced Monday that he will run in-district for District One in the Jackson County Legislature.

Abarca currently serves as the Treasurer of the Kansas City Public School Board, represents Ward 12 on the Jackson County Democratic Committee, and is the secretary for the executive board of the Missouri Democratic Party. He is the Deputy District Director for U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II (D-5).

“There’s no better time than now to re-focus on the things that matter most to all of us: access to government, programs that help promote opportunity in our county, and reasonable policies that positively impact the lives of our residents,” Abarca said.

Abarca graduated from Grandview High School and received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Occupational Safety Management with an emphasis in Environmental Sustainability from the University of Central Missouri. Abarca is pursuing his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for us to dramatically change the county together, and not only for my own hopeful election, but a majority of the county legislature will turn over, decades of service will be released from the county and a new wave of leaders will come in and it’s our opportunity to make sure that we have experience, we have progressive folks, and we have folks that live in our communities like us, working class families represented at the county legislature,” Abarca said. “So I look forward to having our family as part of that team, and we’re excited to move forward in launching this campaign.”

Scott Burnett, who is retiring at the end of this term, has held the District One seat since 1998.

“Honoring Scott’s service, I think, is important because his legacy sets a great example for anyone wanting to step up for public service, first and foremost,” Abarca said. “Secondly, I think it’s a great opportunity for us in the Northeast and us within District One, to have some new representation and folks with new vision and ideas that could change the county for the better.”

While many local elections will have an impact on the next few years, Abarca is choosing to run for county legislature to focus on tax reform.

“From my time on the school board, it’s shown me a lot about taxing jurisdictions and how we collect our taxes, and the processes set in motion and how they impact everyday people, as well as the taxing jurisdictions that received the dollars,” Abarca said. “No one wants to take money away from our kids, but simultaneously no one wants to push seniors or other folks out of their homes because of the high property taxes. So I’ve had a great lesson and understanding of this issue, and it’s the main issue of the county legislature.”

Abarca said not gradually increasing rates every two years has created an artificial cliff that left taxpayers making up for it this past assessment period. He said collecting property taxes around the holidays puts a burden on taxpayers, and payment programs could be improved.

“Property taxes have not been sustained as they should have over the past decade or two, and the taxing jurisdictions like Kansas City Public Schools have been detrimentally impacted because of that,” Abarca said. “Classrooms haven’t received the dollars that they deserve.”

For Abarca, the task will be striking a balance between easing the burden on taxpayers and making sure that schools get their fair share.

Abarca was re-elected to the Kansas City School Board in 2021, and plans to complete the remainder of his four-year term.

Abarca and his family are residents of Historic Northeast, where he recently served as Indian Mound Neighborhood Association president.

“Having just served as president of the neighborhood association, one of the largest neighborhoods in the city, it really challenged me to understand all issues – whether it’s lack of city services that we believe are equitably afforded to us or just helping a neighbor maintain her home and having challenges with taxes and with the burdens of the the assessment process, to making sure that previous owners’ titles and deeds are transferred appropriately – all of those issues were exposed to me through the neighborhood association.”

That experience, along with time spent supporting local nonprofits and agencies helped him understand the community at the level of which neighbors are seeking services, as incredibly important as anyone steps forward to seek the representation of an elected office.

Previously, he served on the Guadalupe Center Educational Systems Board of Directors and serves or has served on the Board of Directors for: MoKan Goodwill, ReDiscover Mental Health Clinics, Samuel Rodgers Health Center, Healing House Inc., the Northeast Chamber of Commerce, Historic Kansas City Foundation and the Indian Mound Neighborhood Association.

Abarca has worked with Voz KC to give a voice to Latinos in Kansas City.

“For the first time in a long time, Latinos will have a voice at the county legislature and so critically important as we talk back about those counties services, including taxes but also combat funds, right, making sure that that the dollars that are being allocated by the county are distributed equitably, and making sure that all voices had the same weight at the table,” Abarca said.

As he’s done on the school board and in other positions, Abarca plans to be a voice for Latinos and all working class families.

“I think this is a critical component, too, and not to say that there haven’t been some strong voices that represent labor unions and working class families, but now more than ever, with infrastructure dollars coming down, with the newly developing Justice Center that the county is going to build, working class families and small businesses have to be paramount in those discussions and their voices have to be heard, because this is an opportunity for them to grow, as well, and for us to use these construction projects to raise our middle class,” Abarca said.

Much of the county district he hopes to represent overlaps with his KCPS sub-district for now, but with the redistricting process in motion, it could shift. Abarca plans to connect with Fourth District City Council representatives and other local elected officials to collaborate on projects.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way candidates strategize campaigning, outreach and contact with their communities. Abarca said it poses a welcome challenge, but it won’t stop him from knocking on doors and conversing with masks on.

Abarca has been endorsed by Jackson County Legislators Crystal Williams and Jalen Anderson, City Councilman Eric Bunch, community organizations La Raza and Voz KC, State Representatives Ingrid Burnett, Mark Sharp, and Ashley Aune, former State Representative John Burnett, the local American Federation of Teachers and SEIU, and community leaders John Fierro and Pedro Zamora.

“This county has been able to accomplish many great things, but we should all want and deserve more,” Abarca said. “It’s time for us to innovate and galvanize our collective power to change how our county government serves us all. Working together, we can implement programs, reform operations, and institute common sense initiatives that give greater access and opportunity to all, while protecting our most vulnerable. It’s time we put residents first, and build off of the momentum of opportunity. It is because of my experience of service that I will fight to do just these things and seek your support to be your next District 1 legislator.”

The opening date to file a declaration of candidacy for the primary election is Tuesday, February 22, 2022 at 8 a.m. The deadline for filing declaration of candidacy is Tuesday, March 29, 2022 at 5 p.m.

Although filing hasn’t yet opened for the Nov. 8, 2022, election, candidates have begun to announce their campaigns. Democrat Justice Horn also plans to run for District One Jackson County Legislature. The Northeast News interviewed Horn last year, listen at

Editor’s Note: The Northeast News was notified after publishing by Justice Horn’s campaign that two of the elected officials listed above, Ashley Aune and Eric Bunch, have also endorsed Horn’s campaign for office.