ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- In a primary election shocker, Cori Bush defeated long-time Congressman Lacy Clay and essentially locked up Missouri’s 1st Congressional seat.
Bush, a progressive and activist, tried unseating Clay in 2018 but didn’t have the money or name recognition to spark a legitimate challenge, losing by 20 percent. Tuesday, she was able to pull out the victory winning 49%-46%.
"It is historic that this year of all years that we're sending a Black, working-class, single mother to Congress," Bush said in her victory speech late Tuesday. "We about to change the world."
Clay, 64, was a 10-term incumbent who served in the US House of Representatives since 2000 when his father retired. A member if the Clay family has held the seat since 1969. Clay is the seventh House incumbent to lose a primary in this election cycle.
"It's understandable when your family controls the district for 50 years that you get a little lazy, a little sloppy," said Dr. Ken Warren, a political science professor at St. Louis University. "You start getting out of touch with the district. You take winning reelection for granted. And again, this is normal when people have won over and over and over again."
Bush ran on a promise of progress, saying it was time for someone who understood the issues that St. Louisans face to represent them in Washington D.C.
"I have lived unhoused with two babies, I've worked on the minimum wage, I've been unemployed," Bush said. "When I talk about canceling student debt and making state colleges and trade schools free, it would take the burden off us.”
Missouri’s First Congressional District encompasses St. Louis City and north St. Louis County. The race is expected to go to the Democrats. Bush would be the first female representative for the House district as well as the first Black woman to win the seat.
Bush said she believes the current pandemic actually played something of a role in her victory. As a nurse, she said voters were able to see how essential nurses are and could identify with her.
She also has a background as an community activist.
"I've been a part of the protests. I've been a part of fighting for Black lives since 2014; since Michael Brown," she said.
Bush's victory was even more surprising given the fact that historically, candidates who run more than once for an office generally do worse rather than better at the polls the second time.
"What I really had was just that desire to see change in my community. So, thinking that I would win or not wasn't even on the forefront of my brain," Bush said. "It was to go another day to help [see] our community's needs, make sure that those needs are met."
Bush will face a Republican in the November election, but she's expected to easily win the seat.