Cori Bush defeats Steve Roberts in 1st Congressional District Democratic primary
Congresswoman Cori Bush is likely heading back to Washington next year after winning the Democratic primary over state Rep. Steve Roberts on Tuesday.
The Associated Press called Bush as the winner at 9:42 p.m., when unofficial results showed her receiving more than two-thirds of the vote in the 1st Congressional District, which includes St. Louis and parts of St. Louis County.
Because the district is largely Democratic, whoever won Tuesday’s primary is likely to win again in November.
“They counted us out, and they said we weren't good enough,” Bush said. “They said you can't make change. But we're here.”
Bush dominated the contest, garnering 69.5% of the vote compared to Roberts’ 26.6%. The contentious campaign featured attacks by Roberts on both her voting record and some of her actions outside of the House chamber.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones defended Bush’s record.
“When you're out here doing the Lord's work to serve your community, they're gonna try you. But they won't succeed. It won't work,” Jones said.
The incumbent did even better within St. Louis, gaining 71.3% of the vote.
During her campaign, Bush touted the work she’s done in less than two years, including the federal funding she has helped bring to St. Louis.
“Because we centered St. Louis, and we've made it very clear that our fight has to be for this district, we've been able to bring over $1 billion to the St. Louis area in under two years,” Bush said.
Bush also sponsored 15 pieces of legislation, including recent bills that address abortion rights. One, which protects access to medication abortion, was introduced the day before Bush was arrested during a protest over abortion rights.
Bush gained national attention multiple times over actions taken outside of the House chamber. In addition to attending the protest on abortion rights, she slept outside on the Capitol steps to protest the end of an eviction moratorium put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden administration ended up extending the moratorium.
Some of Bush’s tactics and votes earned criticism, including from Roberts, who said her votes led him to run in the first place. One example was Bush’s no vote on the infrastructure bill, which is anticipated to deliver around $9 billion to the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Bush defended that decision, saying she had vowed to vote against it unless a broader social services spending bill known as the Build Back Better Act had already passed.
Another criticism by Roberts was she needed to spend more time legislating as opposed to protesting. Bush responded saying Congress members should be able to both pass legislation and bring awareness to issues.
“We should be doing everything in our power to highlight the issue to keep the awareness up, but also use legislation to bring about the change,” Bush said.
Now, with the nomination secured, Bush said Tuesday she will continue to advocate for abortion rights, gun control and voting rights.
“We're going to keep pushing, like our democracy depends on it. We're going to fight with everything we got from the city, to the county, to Jefferson City, and to D.C. to protect and expand voting rights for everyone,” Bush said.
Roberts’ campaign also came under fire from Bush supporters due to accusations of sexual assault against him. One was by the late Cora Faith Walker, a former state lawmaker who was close with Bush and Jones. Another was from attorney Amy Harms.
While Roberts wasn’t charged in either case, and he denied both accusations of assault, he did reach a non-monetary settlement with Walker, and Harms received a financial settlement.
“I recognize that it's unfortunate, but it's something that's going to follow me for the rest of my life. But I'm not going to let it hold me back — and I'm going to keep moving forward,” Roberts said.
Bush alluded to the allegations during her acceptance speech, recounting experiences she had talking to sexual assault survivors during the campaign.
“Tears would well up and fall. Now you know, when tears don't just well up, when they fall, it's serious. Over and over again, they would say to me ‘Don't let him win,’” Bush said.
Bush upset St. Louis politics in 2020, when she beat incumbent Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary. Clay had been the representative for the 1st Congressional District since 2001, with his father, Bill Clay, holding the seat from 1969 to 2001.
Bush’s victory on Tuesday likely has her positioned for future terms. However, her father, Errol Bush, said he doesn’t believe elections get any easier over time.
“You just do things a little different and a little better, because you know what was coming,” Errol Bush said.
Sarah Kellogg is St. Louis Public Radio's statehouse reporter.
Follow her on Twitter @sarahkkellogg.