Mapping expert Brian McClendon is plotting a route to the Kansas State Capitol.
The former Google and Uber executive on Monday launched his candidacy for Kansas secretary of state, a role that would task him with administering state elections and voter registration.
Currently, a research professor at the University of Kansas, McClendon co-founded the tech startup Keyhole, a visual mapping firm that sold to Google in 2004. After a decade as vice president of engineering at Google, McClendon became vice president of maps and business platform at Uber.
A graduate of the KU, McClendon’s extensive tech background would help secure elections in the Sunflower State, as well as make them more accessible, his campaign website reads.
“Too many states have been hacked by foreign agents. Too many eligible Kansans have been discouraged or blocked from voting by poorly designed systems here at home,” the website reads. “Our elections can be both secure and accessible. These are technical problems with technical solutions. Kansas needs a secretary of state who is fluent in tech and Brian McClendon speaks that language.”
In a Google Earth-inspired campaign video, McClendon stands before his childhood home — which originally served as the starting point in Google Earth — in Lawrence, Kansas, to introduce his campaign.
“With the right leader in the secretary of state office, we can run secure and accessible elections and protect our personal information,” McClendon said in the video. “I’ve been a problem solver since I was a kid at Meadowbrook Apartments, and that’s what I’ll be as your secretary of state.”
In a display of his technical prowess, McClendon has already created a tool that streamlines the voter registration process in Kansas. KSVotes.org uses the federal voter registration form and allows voters to quickly register to vote, update their registration or check their status.
The platform bypasses the onerous system Kansas currently offers, McClendon said.
“It’s a fast, paperless way to register to vote in Kansas,” McClendon previously told Startland News. “It uses the federal form instead of the state form that [current Secretary of State] Kris Kobach’s state site offers. This means that you don’t need to provide a birth certificate to register and the performance of the site is faster than anything else out there.”
Entrepreneurs in Kansas City might already be familiar with McClendon. In addition to being an angel investor, McClendon has served as an advisor for several area firms, including Firebrand Ventures. He’s also engaged with the startup community via several presentations.
McClendon even added a touch of his startup background to his introductory video.
“We can use the (secretary of state) office to support Kansas businesses and encourage innovation and startups — something that I’ve got experience with,” he said. “And we can do all this while guaranteeing that the office is run with transparency, making it accountable to the public.”
McClendon enters a crowded field vying for the secretary of state’s office. He will face state Sen. Marci Francisco in the Democratic primary. Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold and state Reps. Keith Esau and Scott Schwab will face off in the Republican primary.
Kobach is forgoing re-election and is instead running for Kansas governor. Kobach is a national anti-voter fraud advocate and recently served as chair of President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was dissolved early this month.