In this feature, we hear from two candidates in the race for Missouri’s 20th Senate district—which includes almost all of Christian and Greene Counties except for the City of Springfield.
The current Senator for that district, Jay Wasson, is not running for reelection due to term limits.
The two candidates hoping to replace him are Democrat Jim Billedo and Republican Eric Burlison.
Eric Burlison, Republican candidate
Burlison spent eight years as a state rep in Jefferson City, representing part of Springfield. He chaired the Professional Registration and Licensing Committee, and he sat on the budget, general laws, and education committees, among others.
Now living in Battlefield, Burlison says he’s ready to go back to Jefferson City for the people in southwest Missouri. He says two top priorities for his Senate District would safety and opportunity for growth.
“So, making sure that we have an environment where people feel like they not only have a job, but they can see growth in their wealth,” Burlison said.
And on the state level, Burlison supported Right-to-Work, which would have barred unions and employers from requiring workers to pay dues as a condition of employment. Missouri voters rejected right-to-work in August—but Burlison says he would push for it again if elected.
“A lot of the discussions that we have, particularly with labor, which is a very powerful lobby in Missouri stopping a lot of laws from being changed, has a different world view about careers and what needs to happen,” Burlison said.
He said another thing holding Missouri back is that it has become a “sue-happy state,” and that our current court system is clogged with cases of trial attorneys seeking high-dollar settlements or judgments.
Burlison’s education is in computer information, business, philosophy, and art. He currently works for Cerner, the healthcare software company.
Jim Billedo, Democratic candidate
Burlison’s opponent is Democrat Jim Billedo.
“We live in Ozark. I’ve lived in the 20th Senatorial District since 1980,” Billedeo said.
Billdeo worked for three decades as an installation technician for AT&T before retiring. He was president of the Communication Workers Labor Union for 12 years.
“And I was in Jeff City a lot during those 12 years to see how the legislature ran, and how the people acted, and how they responded to people coming in and talking to them,” Billedo said.
Billedo is against right-to-work on the state level. And he says he would fight to rein in large campaign contributions.
“I would like to see, whatever the job pays, as a Senator or as a House representative, that you would be able to accumulate that amount of money—whatever the job paid—plus ten percent. And then you run your campaign on that,” Billedo said.
That would force candidates to get out and talk to people, he said, rather than “just buying TV ads when you have a half a million dollars to spend,” Billedo said.
On the local level, he says a major district priority for him if elected to the Missouri Senate would be education.
“School funding would be one of my big issues because we have some rural schools and we have some big schools,” Billedo said.
Sometimes, the rural schools tend to struggle more due to a lack of resources, he said.
"And I would like to see us be able to keep those--and to keep them on a five-day schedule instead of having to go to a four-day schedule because they don't have the funding to take care of it," Billedo said.
Campaign finance records
The election is November 6.