"She's just a no-show," says one of her opponents, Stanford Glazer. "I'm beginning to think I should change my cologne."
Glazer says he attended more than thirty candidate gatherings without catching a whiff of one of Barnes' famed corsages -- until February 15, when Herroner showed up 45 minutes late for a forum at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church on Linwood near Prospect.
Barnes came slinking down a side aisle in the massive sanctuary and settled into the lonely end of a pew, far away from the table where Glazer and fellow opponent Mary DeShon sat facing the crowd. One of the event's organizers sneaked over and urged her to take her place in the front.
There was time left for only one question, which bummed the few dozen hardy voters who had braved an icy wind to show up. Virtually everyone who stepped to the microphone that afternoon had expressed dismay at Barnes' absence. Several people had brought questions specifically for her.
Having ducked these tough queries, Barnes closed the occasion with a cheery two-minute speech touting the city's "progress" and excusing her tardiness with news that she had just been shaking hands with Senator Kit Bond over a delivery of $1 million worth of pork for downtown.
But this rare Barnes sighting doesn't mean the Queen has launched a big comeback tour. She's refused to show up for two forums scheduled for this Friday on KCPT Channel 19 and WDAF Channel 4. The official reason is that Barnes will be in Washington, D.C., that day.
Nick Haines, executive producer of Channel 19's Kansas City Week in Review, says he heard a different reason from Steve Glorioso, the mayor's campaign spokesman. "I don't think she would want to do something with three other opponents attacking her," Haines says Glorioso told him.
Glorioso tells us it's all part of the Barnes campaign plan. Having prematurely claimed victory in the February 25 primary, the mayor's strategists intend to have her face the hard questions before the general election on March 25. They've even committed to three TV and radio debates in mid-March.
By then, though, most of the opportunities for average citizens to confront the mayor about the things that really torment them will have long since passed.