ST. LOUIS — Activist Cori Bush on Tuesday unseated longtime U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, ending his 20-year hold on Missouri’s 1st Congressional District and becoming the first Black woman to represent Missouri in the nation’s capital.
Clay narrowly beat Bush in St. Louis County, but Bush won decisively in St. Louis city.
Bush, 44, of Florissant, first challenged Clay in 2018. This year’s primary rematch drew national attention as the latest battleground between establishment Democrats and progressive challengers vying to pull the party left.
In a victory speech late Tuesday, Bush said Black lives matter “are not just words. … It is historic that this year, of all the years, we’re sending a Black, working-class, single mother, who’s been fighting for Black lives since Ferguson, all the way to the halls of Congress.”
Clay’s family is a political dynasty — prior to Clay’s tenure, his father held the same House seat for three decades.
In their first matchup, Clay defeated Bush by more than 28,000 votes — a 20-point margin that was the closest any challenger had come to unseating Clay until Tuesday night.
This year, Bush had more than triple the campaign donations and name recognition from an appearance in “Knock Down the House,” a 2019 Netflix documentary that followed Bush and three other candidates seeking to replace incumbent Democrats with progressive women, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
“Tonight, Missouri’s 1st District has decided that an incremental approach isn’t going to work any longer,” Bush said. “We decided that we the people have the answers, and we will lead from the front lines.”
The winner of Tuesday’s primary is expected to coast to victory in November’s general election, as the district typically votes overwhelmingly Democratic.
Bush’s campaign focused on universal health care, radically reforming police departments, free public education and raising the minimum wage.
Speaking openly about being evicted and failing to pay taxes, Bush has said her background as a single mother of two children connects her to working families in the district.
Clay, long a solid vote for Democratic policies, has touted his support for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, and for impeaching President Donald Trump — all positions that put him left of other centrist Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Clay has also pointed to his role in bringing the multimillion-dollar National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency campus to north St. Louis.
A third candidate for the Democratic nomination, Katherine Bruckner, had captured about 6.3% of the vote — 5,142 votes as of 10:30 p.m.
Winnie Heartstrong and Anthony Rogers both filed for the GOP nomination but did not mount active campaigns. Rogers was on track to win Tuesday with a 25-point margin.
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