New congresswoman is set to be a champion for the people of St. Louis
Missouri’s Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush has told the same story ever since her first campaign in 2016.
At one point in her life, she was working as a nurse as a single mother living out of her car with her children — never imagining she’d ever find herself in that situation.
“I was that person running for my life across a parking lot, running from an abuser,” Bush said in her acceptance speech on Nov. 3. “I remember hearing bullets whiz past my head. And at that moment, I wondered, ‘How do I make it out of this life?’’
She’s also been uninsured and locked into the perpetual debt cycle of payday lending.
“I’m still that person,” Bush said. “I’m proud to stand before you today, knowing it was this person, with these experiences, who moved the voters of St. Louis to do something historic. St. Louis, my home, we have been surviving and grinding, just scraping by and now this is our moment to finally start living.”
Bush’s election to represent Missouri’s 1st Congressional District makes her the state’s first Black congresswoman. She was also the only person elected this year to either Congress or a statewide office in Missouri who wasn’t an incumbent.
Bush is a Ferguson frontline activist, and she supports the renewed demands for police reform and accountability echoed nationwide this year.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson won re-election with a tough-on-crime platform, and, along with the state’s Republican Party, saw Bush’s statements to defund the police, military and Pentagon as the perfect ammunition against his rival, Democrat Nicole Galloway.
“My opponent endorses people who want to defund the military,” Parson said at a Columbia campaign stop. “If you run with that crowd, you are that crowd. That is just the way this world works.”
The Independent recently spoke with Bush about these statements, the criticism she’s faced and her role as a leader in Missouri’s Democratic Party.
The Independent: You are now one of the state’s top Democrats. What will your role as a party leader look like?
Bush: First, it’ll be a continuation of who I have been — the pastor, the nurse, the activist, the single mother. First and foremost, it’s always been my job to show up. And that is what people know about me. So as congresswoman of Missouri’s 1st District, I will do the same. I will show up.
I will be the active leader, that present leader as much as I can, trying to work between here and D.C. Being in this position, it’s such an honor. And it’s a great responsibility. It’s a lot of accountability. And so that’s the kind of leader I want to be — the one that is responsible and accountable. Like I’ve been saying, this thing is about love and humanity. And in order to do that, I will have to stand on my principles.
The Independent: Then, how can Democrats prevent another Trump in four years from taking away any kind of gains Democrats made in this presidential election?
Bush: We can’t play the middle of the road because they aren’t. They’re making a very clear stance. They’re drawing a very clear line in the sand about what they believe, and that no matter what happens, they are going to stay as a group and stand together. And so, I think as Democrats, we need to do the same thing.
People are looking for a champion
People can look at me and say, ‘Oh, well she has these strong stances. And she’s not willing to compromise.’ Well, the thing is, that resonated with people in this district because 245,000 of them voted for me to move on to Congress. And I think it’s because people were tired of trying to figure out where people stand. People are tired of that.
People are looking for that champion. And even though Donald Trump was not the best champion, even though he’s not the one that people should have looked to and followed, he was very serious and very clear about how he feels about certain things.
And even though some of it was absolutely disgusting, people know where he stands. I think as Democrats, we have to show up that same way so that we don’t end up in this position in four years, where there is this clear line, this is what we believe, and this is it.
The Independent: As the election neared, it seemed Republicans continually tried to make you a key figure in the governor’s race. What was your take on that?
Bush: I truly believe that it was just all racially charged. Because if I was a white woman saying the exact same thing, no one would have said anything. It wouldn’t have started a thing. The issue is because I’m a Black woman who fights for Black lives and has been very vocal about it, calling out systems and calling out people who I feel have been complacent in those areas who could have done different work, but chose not to because their lives are on the line. That was the reason why I believe that they used me to try to hurt her campaign.
It was totally racially charged. It was that southern strategy. It was really to invoke fear and panic in people to make them not think clearly, and not research the person, not look at who Nicole really is. It was just about, “My governor said this, and so I’m sure it must be true. And now I’m afraid.”
The Independent: Is there one line or one thing that sticks out in your mind, from all things people have told you since you were declared the winner on Tuesday?
Bush: Well, someone said to me, “I see me in you.” And this was someone I had never met. A young Black woman. And that meant everything to me. Because that’s what this is supposed to be. Because I’m taking St. Louis to Congress, not Cori.