Cori Bush 2020

Cori Bush during her acceptance speech, August 4.

Progressive candidate and pastor Cori Bush, who is a single mother and registered nurse, will become Missouri’s first African-American U.S. congresswoman. She defeated 10-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay, whose family has represented the District 1 House seat since the late 1960s in the August 4 Democratic primary.

Bill Clay, a civil rights activist, was elected in 1968 and sworn in the following January. His son Wm. Lacy Clay was elected as his successor in 2001.

Bush received 72,812 votes, and Clay received 68,201, based on unofficial election results. The Republican and Libertarian primaries did not generate 12,000 votes between them, so the Democratic nominee is a sure winner in November.

“Almost six years ago to this day, Mike Brown was murdered,” Bush said in her acceptance speech on Tuesday night – “murdered by the police in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. I was maced and beaten by those same officers in those same streets. Six months from now as the first Black congresswoman in the entire history of Missouri, I will be holding every single one of them accountable.”

In fact, Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Brown, has not been charged with murder.

Bush was endorsed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and backed by the Justice Democrats that helped elect U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Alongside these progressive Democrats, Bush has vowed to fight for the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, free college, ending mass incarceration and deportation and rejecting all corporate PAC money. Her grassroots campaign raised almost $800,000 from “regular people” and made about 475,000 phone calls, she said. 

“We’ve been called ‘radicals,’ ‘terrorists,’” Bush said. “We’ve been dismissed as an impossible fringe movement. But now we are multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational mass movement — united and demanding change.”

Missouri’s first congressional district includes all of St. Louis city and much of North St. Louis County — including Ferguson. In the city, 51.6% of voters cast their ballots for Bush and 41.8% for Clay. Of county voters, it was about 46% for Bush and 49% for Clay. A third Democratic candidate, Katherine Bruckner, earned a nominal percentage of the votes.

In 2018, Bush ran against Clay with a small team and minimal resources and lost by a wide margin. This time, she started campaigning early, raised four times the amount she did previously and built a national network of supporters that propelled her campaign forward, she said. She was also a 2016 Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate and was defeated by Jason Kander in the primary.

A St. Louis native, Bush was raised in the Northwoods area and received her education from Cardinal Ritter College Prep, Harris-Stowe State University, and Lutheran School of Nursing. 

“I have servant leader in my DNA,” Bush said. “My father has had a long career in local politics as a former mayor and current councilman. I am a clear and present leader. I’m a registered nurse and pastor.”

Bush is a longtime advocate for mental health services and childcare, along with ensuring that all families have access to healthcare and higher education.

“I have battled with homelessness and have lived paycheck to paycheck,” Bush said. “I understand the hardships that come with not being paid a living wage. That is why I will stand with St. Louis, a community where homelessness continues to increase, and I will fight for a federal $15 minimum wage increase. A full-time worker should not have to live in poverty.”

When asked where the money will come from for these progressive policies, Bush said that the funds for these programs already exist.

“We simply need to evaluate our priorities,” Bush said. “We must dramatically reduce the amount of money we spend on the military and harmful industries like fossil fuels — these investments won’t carry us into the future. This year, Congress approved a $700 billion defense budget, and last year alone we spent approximately $650 billion on fossil fuel subsidies. That’s 10 times as much as we spent on education.”

She also said it’s time for the wealthy to contribute their fair share. 

“Closing corporate tax loopholes also ensures fairness and accountability, and it will allow us to build the future we desperately need,” she said. 

She said the country’s “broken” healthcare system would cost $52 trillion to maintain, while Medicare for All would prevent 70,000 deaths a year and save $450 billion. 

As congresswoman, she said she will be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis that has left millions unemployed and at risk of eviction, and a police violence epidemic that is devastating Black and Brown communities. 

This summer after George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others died at the hands of police, Bush said millions of people took to the streets to join St. Louisans in saying that Black Lives Matter. 

“It is historic that this year of all years we are sending a Black working-class single mother who’s been fighting for Black lives from Ferguson all the way to the halls of Congress,” Bush said. “I will never take for granted the movement that got me here. We are about to change the world.”

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