Cori Bush: progressive activist beats 20-year Democratic incumbent in Missouri primary

<span>Photograph: Michael B Thomas/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Michael B Thomas/Getty Images

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.

The progressive candidate ended a half-century political dynasty in one of several notable results to emerge from primary elections in five states on Tuesday. Results were still coming in on Wednesday morning, but Donald Trump’s ally, Kris Kobach, had already suffered a defeat in Kansas.

Roger Marshall won Kansas’s Republican primary for the Senate. Kobach, Kansas’s former secretary of state, lost the state’s governor race to a Democrat in 2018 and Republicans were fearful his win in the Senate primary would ensure another defeat to Democrats in November.

Kobach is best known for his hardline anti-immigration policies and effort to weaken voting rights. Republicans have held the Senate seat for more than 100 years, but the party was still fearful Kobach would polarize voters in the November race. The Democratic candidate, Barbara Bollier, left the Republican party in 2018.

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.

In another victory for progressives, the Michigan representative Rashida Tlaib won her Democratic primary.

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.”