Up-and-coming Democrat stumps for challenger to incumbent St. Louis congressman | St. Louis Public Radio

Up-and-coming Democrat stumps for challenger to incumbent St. Louis congressman

Jul 21, 2018

A Democrat challenging incumbent Congressman Lacy Clay is getting a boost from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who made national headlines earlier this year by toppling a long-time New York representative.

Ocasio-Cortez was in St. Louis on Saturday on behalf of Florissant Democrat Cori Bush. Her visit comes a day after Ocasio-Cortez joined Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in campaigning for Brent Welder, a former St. Louis resident is who running for a congressional seat in Kansas.

“Cori is a sister,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “She and I first met a year ago as grassroots activists. And it was at the same place and at the same time where we said, ‘We’re just going to try and send a message about health care and education and make corporate-free politics a priority.’”

Both Ocasio-Cortez and Bush were prominent supporters of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. And Ocasio-Cortez’s win over New York Congressman Joe Crowley sparked a national dialogue about whether left-of-center renegades could topple incumbent lawmakers.

“It will send the message that it wasn’t just lightning striking in her race, which people have said,” Bush said. “Also it will show that women, especially women of color, can win Congress.”

Ocasio-Cortez said Bush can follow her lead if she sticks to issues that resonate with voters.

“It’s just to stick to the message, talk about their issues, talk about Medicaid for all, talk about tuition-free college,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And run as you are.”

For his part, Clay is not worried about suffering the same electoral fate as Crowley. 

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-University City, speaks at a congressional forum hosted by the League of Women Voters at Christ Church Cathedral in July 2016.
Credit File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

“I campaign vigorously and I bring my list of accomplishments, achievements, my level of service to this community — and then share that with the voters going into an election. And then, they make the call,” Clay said. “They decide who can best represent their interest in Washington. And so, I’m comfortable that we will get our message out to the public. Voters in this district are quite intelligent. And they vote in their best interest.”

Neither Clay nor his father, former Congressman Bill Clay, have ever lost an election. What’s more, Clay said, his voting record is progressive — which appeals to voters in the St. Louis and St. Louis-based district.

“If you look at my votes and my positions, I’ve always sided with the best of interests of the people of this district — and this country,” Clay said.

Clay has raised more money than Bush — and has more cash in the bank going into the August 7 primary election.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum