In August, progressive activist and nurse Cori Bush shocked the Democratic establishment when she unseated 20-year congressional veteran Rep. Lacy Clay for the Democratic nomination to Missouri’s 1st Congressional District. Her victory against Clay all but ensured winning the seat on Tuesday, making Bush the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress. It’s been a long time coming.
Bush had attempted to primary Clay in 2018, receiving an endorsement from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And while she lost that primary to Clay, it was clear the incumbent was not the formidable legacy candidate that he had been perceived to be. On Tuesday night, that dream came true for Bush and her supporters as she won decisively and gave a truly inspiring speech.
CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT CORI BUSH: So, I was running. I was that person running for my life, across a parking lot. Running from an abuser. I remember one day hearing bullets whiz past my head, and at that moment I wondered, How do I make it out of this life?
I was uninsured. I’ve been that uninsured person, hoping my healthcare provider wouldn’t embarrass me by asking if I had insurance. I wondered, how will I bear this?
I was a single parent. I’ve been that single parent, struggling paycheck to paycheck. Sitting outside the payday loan office wondering, how much more will I have to sacrifice?
I was that COVID-19 patient. I’ve been that COVID-19 patient, gasping for breath, wondering how long will it be before I can breathe again?
I’m still that person. I’m proud to stand before you today knowing it was this person, with these experiences, that moved the voters of St. Louis to do something historic. St. Louis, my city. My home, my community. We have been surviving and grinding, and just scraping by for so long and now this is our moment to finally start living. Let’s finally start living. Let’s finally start growing. Let’s finally start thriving.
So, as the first Black woman, and also the first nurse, and single mother to have the honor to represent Missouri in the United States Congress let me say this: To the Black women, the Black girls, the nurses, the essential workers, the single mothers—this is our moment.
Bush went on to talk about representing the people in the America we all share, “not Trump’s America” or the America led by “the small-mindedness of a powerful few, but the imagination of a mass movement that includes all of us.” She talked about how she will be carrying her constituents with her everywhere she goes and to every room she works in. She gave this very moving reminder of what leadership and representative democracy can promise to be.
BUSH: St. Louis, if you know nothing else, you remember this: Your congresswoman-elect, soon-to-be congresswoman loves you. Your congresswoman-elect, soon-to-be congresswoman loves you; and I need you to get that. Because if I love you, I care that you eat. If I love you, I care that you have shelter and adequate safe housing. If I love you, I care that you have clean water and clean air, and you have a livable wage. If I love you, I care that the police don't murder you. If I love you, I care that you make it home safely. If I love you, I care that you are able to have a dignity, and have a quality of life the same as the next person, the same as those that don't look like you. That didn't grow up the same way you did. Those that don't have the same socioeconomic status as you. I care.
Bush finished by raising her fist in the sky, along with the family and friends that stood on stage with her, and made the pledge to walk “arm in arm, with our fists in the air, ready to serve each other until every single one of us is free.”