Dr. Gena Ross

Dr. Gena Ross, a professor with a doctorate in public policy and administration, won Tuesday's primary to become the Democratic nominee for the Missouri 6th District U.S. House race.

When Dr. Gena Ross looked for a role model, she didn’t have to venture outside the family home.

“Just watching my mom and how she helped people,” Ross said of the woman who raised her as a single mother working as a registered nurse. “My mother is my hero.”

The Democratic nominee for the Missouri 6th District U.S. House seat said her mother’s example of helping others will inform her “People First” campaign. Ross, of Platte City, topped four other candidates to win her party’s nomination in Tuesday’s primary election.

In her victory, she claimed the right to face incumbent Congressman Sam Graves, a Republican who has held the seat since 2001.

She spent Wednesday answering calls, helping her daughter get ready to leave for college and standing “in awe” of the win and the task ahead of her.

The candidate vowed to remain grounded in the concerns of the people she would represent.

“People first,” Ross said. “We’re the ones that pay taxes and we live here, you know, in these 36 counties. People matter. It’s very important. Their livelihood, it matters to me, sustainable communities with the society, the economy and their environment.”

An assistant professor of business at Kansas City Kansas Community College, she advocates for an increase in the federal minimum wage, for programs where people can learn a trade or job skills and for more entrepreneurial opportunities.

She believes the federal government has a role to play in education, particularly in leveling the playing field so all young people have a chance to learn.

“What’s in the suburbs should be the same for the rural. What’s in the rural or the suburbs should be the same in the inner city,” the Democratic nominee said. “No child left behind, for real.”

Her concern for access to health care long predates her hospitalization with the coronavirus this spring. Ross said Americans should not be forced to make choices between paying their rent or grocery bills and paying for medical treatments, and she favors federal involvement in broader coverage.

“Those that have private insurance, they can keep their private insurance,” she said. “But I just want to make sure that everybody would be covered. Even if they had to pay for it themselves, just make it affordable and make their prescriptions affordable.”

Ross said she respects the Second Amendment but wants to see background checks for gun purchases strengthened and enforced.

“You know, everybody doesn’t need a gun,” she said.

And the candidate said she would use a position in Congress to encourage a well-informed citizenry and civic engagement.

“I don’t want someone making all these choices for me and never consider me, so it’s only right to communicate with the people, the citizens, and have town hall meetings and talk to them and be engaged with them and get to know them and get to know about their community,” Ross said. “It’s just about communicating and building relationships with one another.”

Ross won Tuesday’s primary with 33% of the Democratic vote. Her 14,483 votes was boosted by 5,005 votes in her home county, Platte.

Also on the November ballot with Graves and Ross will be Jim Higgins, who faced no opponent from the Libertarian Party. He resides in St. Louis, outside the 6th District.

Ken Newton can be reached at ken.newton@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.​