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Progressive Cori Bush Just Pulled Off the Upset for the Ages and Is Poised to Become the 1st Black Woman to Represent Missouri in Congress

Missouri Democratic congressional candidate Cori Bush celebrates with friends and family at her campaign office on August 4, 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Missouri Democratic congressional candidate Cori Bush celebrates with friends and family at her campaign office on August 4, 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Photo: Michael B. Thomas (Getty Images)

Sometimes a stone, a sling and immaculate aim are enough.

On Tuesday, in what can only be considered a victory for the ages, Black Lives Matter organizer and activist Cori Bush defeated Rep. William Lacy Clay in Missouri’s Democratic primary. Clay served in the House of Representatives for some 20 years.

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“They counted us out. They called me 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,” Bush said following her victory, adding, “It is historic that this year, of all the years, we are sending a Black, working-class, single mother, who’s been fighting for Black lives since Ferguson, all the way to the halls of Congress,” Yahoo News reports.

To understand the enormity of the moment, Clay began his reign in Congress in 2001. 2001. 2-0-0-1. Apple just released a little program called iTunes in 2001. America’s biggest fear in 2001 was receiving an anthrax-laced letter. Destiny’s Child was still a group. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the biggest movie. Then-President Bill Clinton was serving his last days in office and Hillary was sworn into the Senate. 9/11 happened.

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That’s how long ago 2001 is and get this, Clay succeeded his father, who had held the seat since 1969. We didn’t even have cars in 1969! People just rode bikes with that big ass wheel in the front and that tiny wheel in the back.

This was a political dynasty that Bush defeated. This wasn’t just Rocky beating Ivan Drago, this was Rocky tossing Drago, his father, and his two cousins in the same day.

This is “one of the most significant moments in the history of St. Louis politics. It is enormous,” Jason Rosenbaum, a political correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio, told Yahoo News.

Bush, 44, challenged Clay in 2018 and lost but she didn’t let that stop her. She merely regrouped and came harder in 2020 and just like that, she edged out the career politician to win the Democratic nomination for the St. Louis-based district.

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And because the people have spoken, and the people in her district are overwhelmingly Democrats, Bush is set to “become the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress.”

And all of this, Bush’s political activism, blossomed out of the gruesome death of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014. And—as if this story isn’t already unbelievable—Bush, a minister and a nurse (did I mention that she’s a single mom? If I did, let me mention it again), suffered from COVID-19 towards the end of the race. Hollywood are y’all hearing this?

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And that isn’t all. Here’s what else she faced according to Yahoo News:

This wasn’t a simple liberal-versus-conservative ideological battle. Clay is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a supporter of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Clay had establishment support with endorsements from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Kamala Harris and Planned Parenthood, while Bush received an early endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who she thanked at the beginning of her victory speech. An outside group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking Clay over his opposition to an Obama-era Wall Street reform.

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Bush is a part of a small but strong movement of newcomers who have knocked out Democratic incumbents with a grassroots message that resonates with the people in 2020. Yahoo News notes that Bush joins Marie Newman who “defeated anti-abortion Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski in Chicago” and Jamaal Bowman who “was victorious over Rep. Eliot Engel, the House Foreign Affairs chairman, in New York.”

“I fight for [progressive] values just because it’s right,” Bush said in the final days of the campaign, Yahoo News reports. “I always think that ‘I am the people I serve.’ I did not coin the phrase, but I always say that because I have lived low-wage. I’ve been unhoused, living out of a car with two children. I have lived uninsured ... I’m a victim of violent crime. I’m a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence. So I’ve been through so many things that have happened here in this community that haven’t really been addressed by our congressperson even though he’s been in that seat for 20 years.”

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Something tells me all of that is about to change.


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Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.

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