Progressive activist Cori Bush is making headlines for defeating Missouri’s longtime incumbent Congressman Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. in the Democratic primary for the state’s 1st Congressional District. But who is the woman behind the upset? Here are 10 things to know about Cori Bush.
Missouri has never had a Black woman serve in Congress. If elected in November, Cori Bush will become the first to accomplish the historical milestone.
Based on unofficial election results, Bush received 72,812 votes and Clay received 68,201 in the primary.
Bush became active in the protests against racism and police brutality after the murder of Mike Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. She rose to become a leader of the movement, according to the New York Times.
“I was maced and beaten by those same police officers in those same streets,” Bush said after her victory Tuesday. She plans to use her office to address police brutality and other issues.
“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,” Bush added. “If you didn’t understand what happened, what was birthed right here in St. Louis, Missouri, in St. Louis County, in Ferguson, we’re about to show you.”
Bush, 44, is pro-reparations. In a tweet last summer she expressed her passionate belief the Black America was owed recompense from the U.S. government for the atrocious institution of slavery.
“I’ll be fighting for Reparations for African-Americans, children of the diaspora with all of my soul. Expect my mouth, feet, hands, face, & clothing to express my warriorship. If you don’t like it, oh well. U and your ancestors had plenty of time to fix this inequitable society,” Bush tweeted.
Bush has always been outspoken about changing the status quo. However, the covid-19 pandemic has caused her to more emphatically call for change.
“Bush pushed drastic changes to the nation’s criminal justice system, including defunding and dismantling police departments; called for Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage and a universal basic income; and swore off corporate campaign contributions,” reported the NYT.
In 2018, Bush tried to unseat Clay, but was unsuccessful. Clay was a 10-term incumbent and comes from a political dynasty. He is the son of civil rights activist William “Bill” Lacy Clay Sr., who held the seat for 32 years before Lacy Jr.
While unsuccessful in 2018, the significance of Bush’s challenge to Clay (and three other women including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s successful run) was profiled in the Netflix documentary “Knock Down The House.”
In the trailer for the film, Bush says, “I was not trying to become an activist. I live six minutes from Ferguson. Being a woman of color, our image is scrutinized. … The problems that we have in our district, we ourselves can fix.”
Bush has been transparent that her life’s journey hasn’t always been easy. Once homeless, she’s a pastor, single mother, a registered nurse and said she understands the problems people face every day.
A CBS report stated, “Bush became ill while pregnant with her second child in 2001 and had to quit her job at a preschool. When she and her then-husband were evicted from a rental home, the couple, their newborn and 14-month-old son lived out of a Ford Explorer for several months.”
After the couple divorced, Bush went to school and earned her nursing degree and became a pastor.
“I have lived unhoused with two babies, I’ve worked on the minimum wage, I’ve been unemployed,” Bush said, according to KMOV. “When I talk about canceling student debt and making state colleges and trade schools free, it would take the burden off us.”
Bush said her experiences that allow her to relate to everyday people helped her gain victory against Clay.
“Tonight, Missouri’s First District has decided that an incremental approach isn’t going to work any longer,” Bush said after winning the primary race. “We decided that we the people have the answers, and we will lead from the front lines.”
She added, “They counted us out. They called me – I’m just the protester, I’m just the activist with no name, no title and no real money. That’s all they said that I was. But St. Louis showed up today.”
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin
Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.
Bush didn’t mince words when highlighting how long Clay had been in Congress, yet failed to make positive change for his constituents.
“He’s had 20 years to make a change, not only in St. Louis but across this country,” Bush said during her campaign “He waits until something is popular to stand up for it, or he waits until there is pressure. I do it just because that is the need.”
Bush has been criticized for supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which says on its website it “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.” However, some see the group as a dangerous anti-Israel organization.
Clay attempted to use the fact against her by sending a mailer that said Bush had an anti-Israel agenda.” Her campaign said the mailer was altered.
According to Mondoweiss, a now-deleted portion of Bush’s website read, “In these times, it is important to be specific with our language and direct in the actions we take. In our current geopolitical economy, money talks far louder than speech alone. This is why nonviolent actions like the BDS movement are so important—and why the effort to mischaracterize and demonize the BDS movement by its opponents is so urgent.”
Instead of shrinking back, Bush’s campaign doubled down on her support of BDS.
“Cori Bush has always been sympathetic to the BDS movement, and she stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people, just as they have stood in solidarity with Black Americans fighting for their own lives,” a statement released by her campaign said.
Bush is one of several progressive candidates across the country backed by Justice Democrats. She now joins candidates like Jamaal Bowman, a Bronx middle school principal who defeated longtime incumbent Eliot Engel in his primary, as victors backed by the group in races against what many consider establishment candidates.
“If you don’t know, now you know: The Squad is here to stay, and it’s growing,” Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said.
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