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When Sly James announced two years ago that he was going to run for Mayor of Kansas City, no one believed that he could do it. Even his closest friends said “well, at least you’ll have to change your name back to Sylvester.”

But he ignored the nay-sayers and he didn’t go back to Sylvester.

Instead, he rolled up his sleeves, got to work shaking hands and introducing himself, and building a campaign one voter at a time.

What he did was build a grassroots coalition of supporters, starting with tireless community activist Dr. Sugar Lee Lewis, who was out there every day, rain or shine, talking to people and planting lawn signs, from the Northland, where no minority candidate, not even our much-beloved former Mayor and current U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, ever pulled more than 30% of the vote all the way down south where Kansas City becomes Martin City.

His campaign office was a beehive of activity practically 24 hours a day for two years as the cleanest, most issues-driven campaign I have ever seen unfolded.

Watching the returns

That would be Dr. Lewis and yours truly with hands to mouth as the first returns started to come in.

And last night, when the returns from the Northland started coming in, we knew he was going to win in a walk. We always knew he was going to carry most of the gentrifying inner city where I live and all of the east side, so when I saw 35% in the northland, I started doing the statistical analysis in my head, and turned to Dr. Lewis and said “He’s got this” even before the first vote was reported from the Fifth and Sixth districts

That’s when the party really started.

When the new Mayor came to the podium to address the crowd, he verified for everyone in the room and watching on television that faced with a tough choice and two good candidates, we picked the right one. He spent the first two minutes of his speech thanking Mike Burke for the clean, issues-driven campaign that both men waged for the privilege of leading our city, and he also let Mr. Burke know that although Sly won the election, Mike should be prepared to spend no small amount of time on the 29th floor of City Hall because he will be “up to his neck” in the work that needs to be done to get our city back on track.

It is going to be so nice come May 1st to have a Mayor and First Lady that aren’t a head-hanging embarrassment who make our city a national laughingstock.

Can someone find me a judge and a bible? Let’s just do this already.

And if Funk needs any help cleaning out his office, I’m available.

Michael has a terrific photo-essay of the watch/victory party.