Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay, a longtime incumbent and the scion of a St. Louis political dynasty, held onto his seat in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday, fending off a primary challenger from Cori Bush, a nurse, pastor and progressive political activist.
Bush had hoped to replicate the success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who endorsed her and pulled off a similar upset when she defeated New York Rep. Joe Crowley in June. But Lacy Clay’s longstanding ties to the district were too much to overcome.
Before Lacy Clay won his seat in the 2000 election, his father ― Bill Clay, one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus ― had held it since 1969. Lacy Clay is a career politician, first winning office almost immediately after graduating college.
Bush campaigned on Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage, and argued the district, which is majority-minority and includes St. Louis and its northern suburbs, needs a more activist representative. Bush had made her name as an activist in protests following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. She had the backing of Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress and other insurgent progressive groups.
Lacy Clay had been somewhat dismissive of Bush’s challenge and had reason to be. He had fended off primary challenges in the past, even defeating a fellow congressman in 2012 by nearly a two-to-one margin.
His campaign dubbed him “the proven progressive leader looking out for us,” and noted he, too, supported Medicare for All. It also noted his success in bringing federal funds to the district, including research dollars for local hospitals and universities and the construction of a new western center for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
The district is heavily Democratic, and Lacy Clay will face only token opposition in November.