Most small businesspeople eschew political involvement altogether.
However, it would be impossible for Chris and Andy Lewellen to forsake their political background. Their strategy for supporting local candidates is intriguing and offers a great glimpse of how local business and politicos can party with one another.
Recently, at a fundraiser for Mayoral Candidate Deb Hermann, it (finally) struck me that the Chris and Andy Lewellen have successfully managed to bridge the gap between business and politics, unlike most elected officials in Kansas City. This only comes as a surprise to me given that their dad Bob Lewellen was a two-time City Councilman in Kansas City, MO. Also, Chris, formerly a local political mover and shaker, actually served as the campaign manager for Former Mayor Kay Barnes in her last successful run.
Still, things can get EXTREMELY petty in local politics and siding with one faction over another always presents a risk. Chris Lewellen explains his guiding philosophy, “We just want to support a few people that we really believe in and offer a place where we can help them hold successful events.”
“Is there a downside? Maybe,” Lewellen said. “But these are people that we would have supported anyway so there was no point in trying to hide that affiliation.”
With a great many friends, family and associates, an endorsement from the Lewellen family is a significant achievement for any Kansas City political candidate. Their nod usually goes to politicos who they’ve known for quite some time.
A brief chat with Andy Lewellen made it seem like their endorsement of Deb Hermann for Mayor came without a second thought. “Deb is great – she has done a lot of work in neighborhoods,” Lewellen said. “She has a real chance of winning.”
In a tight race, this type of close interpersonal support,even more based on lasting associations, goes beyond grassroots political activity. In the last election cycle it was a rally for Jackson County Legislator and former Chiefs player Fred Arbanas that sparked the momentum he needed to win a race after more than 35 years in office.
Arbanas was taking some serious fire from Councilman Terry Riley and his age and record as a legislator was coming into question.
The rally at The Well in Waldo demonstrated strong neighborhood support and ultimately incited more enthusiasm in a campaign that had been dead in the water.
Still, The Lewellen brothers are cautious about their political activity. They don’t make endorsements outside of Kansas City, MO non-partisan elections.
“We don’t want to become a Democrat or a Republican place in the same way that we’re not an MU or KU bar and grill,” Chris Lewellen said.
More than anything, that last comment convinced me that Lewellen’s political strategy for business, parties and politics was a lot more thought out than most of anything we’ve seen from City Hall.