Updated 10 p.m., Oct. 21 - Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal is following up on her criticisms of U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay by taking the first step to challenge him next year.
Chappelle-Nadal recently filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to set up her congressional campaign committee. But candidate-filing in Missouri won’t begin until late February.
If Chappelle-Nadal follows through, she would compete against Clay in next year’s August primary. She has yet to comment on her plans. Clay also has yet to comment on her FEC filing.
Both are Democrats from University City.
"I think we need to go in a different direction," Chappelle-Nadal said Wednesday night. "It was a very tough decision. I prayed about it. I weighed all the challenges that we are facing in the region" from economic disparaties to environmental contamination.
She has been an outspoken critic of Clay, who she contended had not been forceful enough in his response to the unrest in Ferguson following the Aug. 9, 2014, police shooting that killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed.
Clay, among other things, has pointed to his successful push for a Justice Department probe into the shooting and the police response.
But Chappelle-Nadal said that Ferguson isn't the only issue. She currently has been a harsh critic of how the federal government has been handling the contamination problems at the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills.
She noted that she held a town hall Wednesday night in Bridgeton, and listened to people who say their families have been suffering from serious illnesses because of the landfills.
"I'm a person who shows up when people are hurting,'' Chappelle-Nadal said. "I'm someone who doesn't settle for what the establishment wants them to do."
Clay, 59, has been in Congress since 2001. His predecessor was his father, William Clay Sr., who took office in 1969 and was Missouri’s first African-American elected to the U.S. House.
Chappelle-Nadal, 41, has been in the Missouri Senate since 2011, and previously served six years in the Missouri House. She made news last year when she endorsed Republican Rick Stream for St. Louis County executive, and appeared in a campaign ad for him.
Chappelle-Nadal also has been a harsh critic of Gov. Jay Nixon, who she has attacked for his vetoes of the last two school-transfer bills that she supported. Chappelle-Nadal also has accused the governor of being unresponsive on Ferguson, and showed up at rallies with large placards disparaging him.
Her assistant campaign treasurer, former state Sen. Rita Days, said she was supporting Chappelle-Nadal because she believed it was time for a change.
“I think she would make an excellent congresswoman,” Days said. “Sometimes, new blood is needed. And this is one of those times.”