Posted on August 5, 2020

Cori Bush: Progressive Activist Beats 20-Year Democratic Incumbent in Missouri Primary

Amanda Holpuch, The Guardian, August 5, 2020

Cori Bush, one of the leaders of protests against the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, defeated longtime representative William Lacy Clay in the state’s Democratic primary election on Tuesday.


In Missouri, Bush’s win in the district representing St Louis marked another progressive ousting of a Democratic incumbent. Clay was elected in 2000, taking over the post from his father who had served for 32 years before.

Bush, a 44-year-old nurse and pastor, is almost guaranteed to win the seat in the November election because the district is heavily Democratic.

Bush addressed supporters after her win and said her campaign had been written off, “they counted us out,” she said.

“They called me – I’m just the protester, I’m just the activist with no name, no title and no real money,” Bush said. “That’s all they said that I was. But St Louis showed up today.”

Bush entered politics after the Ferguson protests in 2014 and first ran for the representative seat in 2018, ultimately losing to Clay.

Her foray into the 2018 election earned her comparisons to another progressive who took on a Democratic incumbent, New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She campaigned on issues such as a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition and Medicare for all.

She was also one of four candidates, including Ocasio-Cortez, to be the focus of the documentary Knock Down the House – which trailed their 2018 campaigns.

Bush was a surrogate for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and helped organize Black Lives Matter protests against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In a tweet, Sanders hailed Bush as a “true progressive”.

Voters in Missouri also approved expanding the government health insurance program for low-income Americans, Medicaid. This could give 250,000 Missourians access to the program, starting next year, according to the state’s auditor.

The state’s Republican governor, Mike Parson, opposes Medicaid expansion but because the expansion won through the initiative process, it can only be changed if lawmakers go back to voters.