Pettis County Democrats heard from three candidates for three different offices up for election in 2020 during Thursday night’s annual Pettis County Democrat Club chili cookoff Thursday at the American Legion.

Elad Gross, 31, is running for Missouri attorney general, a seat held by Republican Eric Schmitt. According to his website, he was an assistant attorney general until 2016 in the labor and litigations divisions. He started a nonprofit, Missouri For All, to teach citizens throughout the state how to have their voices heard in their government and communities. 

Gross said his top priority would be to prosecute public corruption and has pledged to not accept any dark money from donors during his campaign.

“We have a problem with money flowing into our political system to buy our government,” he said. 

He cited recent reports that Schmitt accepted donations from a group that was also involved in a case being handled by the attorney general’s office. According to the Associated Press, Schmitt settled the tax fraud lawsuit for much less than originally sought by Josh Hawley, the attorney general prior to Schmitt.

“That’s what dark money is doing. It’s bought our government, it’s making sure they are serving folks who have a lot of money and power and not us. Not the people in this room,” Gross said. “... I think that’s wrong. I think a lot of people think that’s wrong. It doesn’t matter what party you’re in, you think that’s wrong because our government should be serving us, not these other folks.”

Gross also talked about the need to help end phone scams that target people for money. He said Schmitt isn’t taking on telecommunication companies by imposing requirements for them to start blocking numbers. He called that task another major priority.

Erich Arvidson is running for the Congressional 4th District seat, which encompasses 24 counties including Pettis County. He is attempting to unseat U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville.

Arvidson briefly talked about food insecurity, something he experienced as a child along with thousands of Missourians, but focused on improving health care access and taking care of fellow Missourians. He said his small hometown of Delta is known for helping neighbors, something he feels is being lost in the current political climate.

“In national politics and sometimes in the state House, it feels like we’re not looking out for people anymore,” he said. “They’re not looking after people who maybe pray differently than those in charge or love someone else.”

He said he decided to run for office after dealing with the health care system when his dad became ill. He and his sister had to help his dad, a mechanic, financially due to lack of insurance. His father died in February but Arvidson was faced with the same situation shortly after with his mother, a waitress, who died in July.

“The real tragedy is not that it happened once, but that it happens so much all across the state,” he said. “I don’t want this to happen to other Missourians.”

Arvidson’s top priority for office is giving access to health care for all Missourians regardless of their income. As he campaigns across the district, he said he’s gone from being mad “at the system” to finding hope.

“I’m finding others who are tired of being mad too,” he said. “They want to find people who represent the values they have.”

James Williams is running for state House District 54. The retired registered nurse was on the ballot for the same seat in 2018 but Republican Dan Houx won the election and retained his seat in the House.

Williams spoke about the political situation in America for Democrats, saying Missouri needs to see an election in 2020 like the ones Virginia and Kentucky experienced this week when Democrats won major contests. He also said he’d like to see improvements to health care, wage equality for women, and more protections for women’s reproductive rights.


Nicole Cooke is the editor for the Sedalia Democrat, overseeing all newsroom operations and assisting with news coverage of Sedalia and Pettis County. She can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.

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