In the Democratic primary election for the House of Representatives in St. Louis, Missouri, Cori Bush who was backed by progressive groups, defeated the 20-year incumbent William Lacy Clay, who had ‘inherited’ the seat from his father.
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.
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.
I had seen the documentary that was mentioned above and reviewed it here and was sorry that she lost in 2018. Another of the four Paula Jean Swearingen this year won the Democratic Senate primary in West Virginia and will contest Republican Shelley Moore Capito. The last of the four Amy Villlea lost her 2018 primary race for the congressional seat in Las Vegas to Democratic incumbent Ruben Kihuen but he later had to resign from Congress after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced. Vilela served as Bernie Sanders’ campaign co-chair for Nevada this year.
Back in late July, Ryan Grim wrote a detailed analysis of the Missouri race and why progressives had set their sights on Clay who was seen as being in the pocket of the financial industry. He often aligned himself with Republicans to defeat even the mildly progressive measures that his party proposed.
The Obama administration proposed a rule that would require financial advisers to have the best interests of their clients in mind, the so-called fiduciary rule. Lobbyists for the investment industry immediately began an assault from all sides on the proposed rule, leading a drawn-out, six-year battle. Central to that strategy was allying with key Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee, who could give a bipartisan gloss to the effort. Clay, a senior member of that committee, played a leading role in the effort. In return, he was flooded with campaign cash from donors in the investment industry, many of whom hadn’t given to his campaign previously.
As HuffPost reported previously, more than $500,000 of Clay’s money through the first quarter of 2020 came from political action committees, with nearly four of every five dollars coming from a corporate PAC. Nearly $300,000 of it came from the financial industry generally.
Following the defeat of another long-term Democratic incumbents Elliot Engel in New York, Daniel Lipinski in Illinois, and party leader Joe Crowley by AOC in 2018, Bush’s win should serve as a wake-up call to the party establishment. Rep. Henry Cuellar only narrowly fended off progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros in Texas.
Grim follows up today with a post-election analysis and says that Clay’s loss destroys some establishment arguments.
When Engel lost to Bowman, an anonymous Democrat argued to the New York Post that his loss was a fluke and tied to his race and his lack of energy in office. “It doesn’t show AOC’s power — it shows that New York voters want demographic changes in the House,” the Democrat was quoted saying. “They don’t want old white guys who don’t do anything. Not only old white guys; but old white guys who only work when they’re up for reelection. … People are punishing these kinds of lawmakers. If you’re old, white, and lazy, you’re going to get kicked out.”
Clay, however, is not old (he just turned 64, a decade younger than Engel), white, or lazy. Clay did not remotely take Bush for granted, launching a full-scale negative campaign to try to take her down, and has been focused on her as a threat since her loss to him in 2018. He is a fixture of the community, and he and his father, Bill Clay Sr., a civil rights activist and co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, have continuously held the seat since the 1960s.
Meanwhile, the party had targeted progressive Rashida Tlaib in the primary race for the Michigan congressional seat she won in 2018 but she fended off that challenge yesterday, winning easily by a whopping margin of 30%.
Tlaib, a member of the group of progressive house members known as “the Squad”, held off her opponent Brenda Jones, president of the Detroit city council.
“Headlines said I was the most vulnerable member of the Squad,” Tlaib said on Twitter. “My community responded last night and said our Squad is big. It includes all who believe we must show up for each other and prioritize people over profits. It’s here to stay, and it’s only getting bigger.”
While the party establishment may have been able to defeat Bernie Sanders in the presidential race, the progressive movement that he is a part of is here to stay and are a growing force to be reckoned with.