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Jason Kander, rising Democratic star and Afghanistan War veteran, drops out of Kansas City mayoral race to seek treatment for PTSD

October 3, 2018
Jason Kander, pictured here in 2016, has been considered a frontrunner for the 2020 presidential election. (Whitney Curtis / Getty Images)

Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state and Democratic Party darling, announced Tuesday that he’s ending his campaign for Kansas City mayor in order to seek treatment for PTSD.

The 37-year-old politician, who almost ousted the incumbent Republican Roy Blunt in the 2016 Missouri Senate race, revealed in a Medium post that he first contacted the VA four months ago because he was struggling to deal with the impacts of his time as an Army Intelligence Officer in Afghanistan 11 years ago.

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“I can’t have PTSD, I told myself, because I didn’t earn it,” he wrote.

But he went to the VA anyway, saying that he knew he needed help.

“I went online and filled out the VA forms, but I left boxes unchecked — too scared to acknowledge my true symptoms,” he wrote. “I knew I needed help and yet I still stopped short. I was afraid of the stigma. I was thinking about what it could mean for my political future if someone found out.”

Last week, Kander said, he called the crisis line with suicidal thoughts.

“I’m done hiding this from myself and from the world,” he wrote. “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 also said he’ll step back from his political action organization, Let America Vote, which fights to end voter suppression.

Since 2016, when Kander ran a pro-gun control campaign ad that showed him assembling an AR-15 rifle blindfolded, he has been considered a target for the 2020 Democratic presidential race.

In June, he met with former President Barack Obama in a casual sit-down to talk about the race and how to campaign against President Trump. Obama was holding D.C. meetings with several potential contenders, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Peter Buttigieg.

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