“I thought I was going to do commercial real estate and development,” Alissia Canady, a candidate for Missouri Lieutenant Governor, tells ESSENCE during a recent interview. “I thought if I transform the buildings, that would transform the community.”
Somewhere along the way, Canady’s desire for a business career was circumvented by her strong conviction for the people. The woman now attempting to make history as the first Black person to ever be elected to Missouri statewide office admits she never imagined she’d be involved in politics but has found success in leveraging her passion for the people into legislation that supports them in their pursuits.
It’s why the practicing attorney, with an eponymous law office in Kansas City, was approached by the state’s Democratic Party earlier this year to run for the position she’s now vying for. “I had just recently ran for mayor in Kansas City and came up slightly short. It was a very, very competitive race in a crowded field,” Canady shares. The former city council member was the only Black woman on the primary ballot, and though she was outspent by her opponents, final poll numbers reflect a placement among the top three. Canady’s ultimate goal in the race was not achieved, but the positioning solidified her as a formidable contender for the state’s high office.
With this new opportunity, Canady shares that she wants to change the narrative about who goes into politics to effectuate change in their community. “I want to change the narrative about what it takes to be successful as a candidate,” Canady makes plain. “I think that’s more important than anything because we need more people like me and other Black women who have stepped forward to get in this space. It can be very intimidating, but there’s room for us. We just have to have the confidence to step in and occupy space.”
Despite coming off a very robust campaign that fell slightly short, Canady said “yes” to the encouragement from the party because she says she realized that “all the things I campaigned on during my time on the city council and chose as a platform for mayor was about equity and creating opportunities, and making sure we’re being intentional about dealing with education and gun violence and housing — the things that matter to people every day.”
In the position of Lieutenant Governor, Canady sees an opportunity to advance those issues on a broader scale, implementing necessary change throughout the entire state of Missouri. According to the Center for American Progress, Missouri has one of the worst rates of gun violence in the nation. Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield, rank in the top 15 of the most deadly cities in the country. “That says something about the culture in the state,” Canady contends, “and from a legislative standpoint, there are some things that we need to consider doing differently.” The only way to enact that level of change is to have culturally competent leadership, Candy says, the kind that understands how important it is for we, as a nation, to begin looking at how we invest in what Canady refers to as “our human capital,” starting with our youngest ones.
Childcare, a quality education, healthcare and investing in a strong workforce have been among the issues that Canady has focused on since entering into the political sphere. But with the emergence of COVID-19, she also believes it’s important to deal with the social and emotional issues, the trauma and the stress, that many Americans are facing as a result of the virus and the Black Lives Matter movement. Canady says she’s committed and prepared to doing the ground level work to ensure Missouri is a state of healthy people, healthy families, and healthy communities. “We have to be intentional about how we strengthen our economy, and that’s my focus,” she shares.
Even before COVID-19 hit, before George Floyd was murdered, and before people were rallying in the streets chanting “Black Lives Matter,” Canady says she recognized 2020 as an opportune time to really work on and address the issues of systemic racism. “I was clairvoyant to some extent,” the small business owner insists.
Though 2020 was shaping up to be a year of reckoning in Canady’s eyes, choosing to campaign through a national pandemic is not something she signed up for. The rising politician got into the race the day before filing closed in March. Sheltering in place for Missouri residents started the week before that. “There’s no way I could have anticipated what that was really going to look like from a campaign standpoint,” Canady says. But like the leader that she is, she’s simply rolled with the punches. She describes her bid for LG as “different” given that she’s grappling with so many external factors outside of her control, but argues that it’s helped develop her skills at effective engagement in a digital world.
On August 4, voters will get to see just how effective Canady has been. That’s when Missouri heads to the polls in a statewide primary that’s already raised concerns over mail-in ballots. Canady hopes to garner the support of those who backed her in her bid for Kansas City mayor as well as thousands more who recognize her qualifications for the job. The ones who are ready for bold leadership, culturally competent leadership that’s empowered to address the pressing issues with conviction and confidence. In her mayoral race, Canady says she was able to pull that support from both conservatives, and liberals. In 2020 she aims to do it again.
“We’ve never had a person of color elected to statewide in Missouri ever,” Canady rehashes. “It’s time for change.”