The people of Missouri have spoken. On Tuesday, the residents of the state’s first congressional district chose activist Cori Bush as the Democratic nominee in a tight race that ousted 20-year incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. Pundits are calling the turn of events a show of progressive might.

Cori Bush came out of the Ferguson uprising determined to change her community on a political level and first challenged Clay in 2018. Though she failed to garner the votes in that election, Tuesday’s primary saw her capture nearly 49 percent of the vote to Clay’s 45.5 percent.

In an interview with ESSENCE days before the election, Bush called Clay “absent” noting that he had been in Congress for two decades but the people of his St. Louis-area community had barely benefitted from his presence on The Hill. In speaking with voters, Bush said many “wished he would show up and do more.” Comparing his involvement to freshman congresspeople, Bush noted that Rep. Clay hosted one town hall while others have hosted up to 50. “People are tired of it,” Bush asserted. “They just want more.”

Cori Bush speaks at Black Lives Matter rally
Cori Bush told ESSENCE she was a community activist before the Ferguson uprising, but the death of Michael Brown helped her focus her attention on creating change in the political space. (Photo: Cori Bush for Congress Campaign)

On Tuesday voters made that clear when they decided to overthrow what some consider a political dynasty. The first congressional seat had been in the Clay family for more than 50 years. Clay’s father, Bill Clay had held the seat for 32 years before him. Though the junior Clay edged out more votes in St. Louis County, according to a New York Times exit poll, Bush was the clear winner in St. Louis City. The pastor and mother of two is expected to defeat Republican nominee Anthony Rogers in the November election, which would make her the first Black woman to represent the state of Missouri in the halls of Congress.

Thanking supporters following the results, Bush said, “Tonight, Missouri’s first District has decided that an incremental approach isn’t going to work any longer. We decided that we the people have the answers, and we will lead from the front lines.”

On Tuesday voters also chose attorney Alissia Canady as the Democratic nominee for Missouri Lieutenant Governor. If she wins in November, she will become the first Black woman to hold a statewide office. Kim Gardner, St. Louis’ first Black Circuit Attorney, won her primary challenge on Tuesday and is likely to get a second term in office after November’s general election.

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