The St. Louis American: The Post-Dispatch headline about your reelection race against Russ Carnahan said there are “two incumbents.” Was that a surprise?
U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay: Very much a surprise. It’s still called the 1st Congressional District, which I’ve represented for the last 12 years. It’s a misnomer and very misleading on the part of the Post to make it seem like there are two incumbents. There is one incumbent in the 1st: me.
The St. Louis American: We’re following up on a lead that Carnahan got an early boost from the Democratic National Committee’s “Frontlines” list for Democrats running in Republican districts, only to run against an incumbent Democrat.
Congressman Clay: My opponent deceived the DNC and our donors under the assumption that he was committed to help Democrats regain a House majority by running for the open seat in Missouri’s 2nd District. We know now he never intended to do that and instead targeted me. He misled and then defied the House Democratic leadership and turned his back on our party.
The St. Louis American: Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett lined up with Russ in the city, and state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal is doing a Carnahan fundraising event with state Representatives Sylvester Taylor and Tommie Pierson. Why do they oppose you?
Congressman Clay: Sylvester, we are hearing, is having second thoughts. He knows his own reelection chances are in jeopardy for carrying the banner of Russ Carnahan in a district I have represented for 12 years.
Kacie is the one I am most disappointed in. The one last request her grandfather (state Senator John Bass) made was for me to support Kacie in her first election for the Board of Aldermen. None of the 6th Ward leadership supported her, but she campaigned with my pretty picture on her material and my endorsement of her. How quickly she forgets the help we gave her.
As for Maria, none of the Democrats in the state Senate stood up to defend the 3rd Congressional District. Maria never stood up to block the redistricting bill, because that wasn’t her intent or strategy. If she is such an avid supporter of Russ, why didn’t she execute her duties and filibuster the redistricting map that eliminated his district if that was so important for the region?
The St. Louis American: I asked Sylvester Taylor why he opposed you. He said his union endorsed you in your first campaign for Congress and he volunteered to walk with you, but then you have opposed him three times. The first time he ran against Rochelle Walton Gray’s husband in a fire district, and now he is running against Rochelle for state representative. He understands your connection to Elbert Walton, but you have tried to beat him three times.
Congressman Clay: I haven’t endorsed in his current primary. I don’t need to alienate anyone in any of those races. If I have hurt his feelings, you make enemies in this business. People take things personally.
The St. Louis American: It seems some ambitious black Democrats are judging it would help them if Russ knocked you out. There has been a Clay ahead of them in line all their lives.
Congressman Clay: That is so unrealistic. If lighting strikes and Russ wins, they would never be able to take him out because they wouldn’t be able to match him dollar for dollar. One reason this is a closely watched race now is I have eclipsed my opponent in cash on hand and fundraising in the last quarter.
The St. Louis American: We just checked those July campaign reports. What’s up with that?
Congressman Clay: Russ seems to have plateaued. Major funders have abandoned Russ Carnahan because they are reading the same polls we are. The only thing I will share with you from our polls is that we’re ahead – and we intend to maintain that lead.
The St. Louis American: We have had operatives in the door complaining you aren’t putting any money in the street, that you are putting your money on TV and asking for volunteers to canvass and work on election day.
Congressman Clay: I don’t know who is telling you that, but we are spending our money on a mixture of what we need to win.
The St. Louis American: Alderman Antonio French was complaining to me about his white progressive friends who have campaign signs for Russ Carnahan and Jeanette Mott Oxford. If both of those candidates win, St. Louis has no black representative in the U.S. Congress or the state Senate. What can we say to progressive white Democrats to convince them of the value of having black elected representation from St. Louis?
Congressman Clay: I think most Democrats get it. I got an endorsement from a township like Creve Coeur, and from the Young Democrats in St. Louis. They get it. I got the endorsement in Hadley Township, and one of the points made was if you think you are going to take out an African-American congressman and replace him with a Caucasian and that won’t impact the Democratic Party, then something is wrong with your understanding of this. Do you think you can insult the most loyal base of the Democratic Party and not have an impact? It will destroy this party statewide.
The St. Louis American: I saw where Russ played a couple of dual endorsements, where you were both endorsed, as if he got the lone endorsement.
Congressman Clay: That’s another sign of his tactic of deception, his whole style of deceptive campaigning, which a vast majority of people in the region are turned off by. The latest was he said ATU 788, the Amalgamated Transit Union, endorsed him. What happened was their local president made a personal endorsement of Russ, but the executive board endorsed me. He deceived the public again to say he had the union’s endorsement. The union couldn’t endorse Russ. He voted against them on one of their legislative priorities, the FAA reauthorization bill that tamps down on transportation unions’ right to organize.
The St. Louis American: The National Journal ranked you tied for 1st as most liberal vote in Congress, where Carnahan came in at 139. Not that you were competing when you cast those votes, but what were your progressive votes that put you so far ahead of him on this index?
Congressman Clay: I have voted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq consistently. I voted against the Patriot Act. I voted to protect investors and consumers. I have always voted strongly to support unions and workers and their families, whereas Russ voted to prevent transportation workers from even forming a union. Carnahan voted to bail out the banks without any protection for the average taxpayer. I have always supported the Congressional Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus by voting for their alternative budgets, but Russ didn’t do that until he decided to run in a majority-minority district.
The St. Louis American: Maria has made public claims that you are pro-life.
Congressman Clay: No, I am not. Look, man, I have voted pro-choice for the last 30 years. What makes me “pro-life” in her eyes is one vote I cast to give parents the right of parental notification whenever a minor child is taken across state lines for an abortion by another adult who is not their parent. If that makes me pro-life, I’m sorry. But I think the senator misrepresented me and is trying to deceive voters. I explained my position to Planned Parenthood, and I believe we can have differences of opinion with groups we have worked with for years and expect to still have their respect. But as a parent I would want to know if my child has any major medical procedure of any kind.