Cori Bush, Progressive Missouri Challenger, Raises $170,000 In June

The progressive taking on Rep. Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary improved her cash haul despite two hospitalizations for COVID-19.

Cori Bush, a registered nurse challenging Rep. William “Lacy” Clay from the left in Missouri’s Democratic primary, raised nearly $240,000 in the second quarter, including $170,000 in June alone.

Bush’s strong fundraising haul marks a major improvement over her totals in the first 14 months of her candidacy, suggesting that she is picking up momentum ahead of the Aug. 4 primary. Bush had raised less than $260,000 in her entire campaign prior to the second quarter.

Bush, an ordained minister who got involved in politics as a Black Lives Matter activist after the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014, managed the sum during a tumultuous period in her life. She was hospitalized twice for COVID-19 in March and April, and continues to be active in St. Louis-area street demonstrations against racist policing. (Bush reported on Twitter on Sunday night that police in Florissant, Missouri, sprayed her in the eyes with pepper spray.)

“Whether I was in the hospital fighting COVID or in the streets fighting for justice, people all over St. Louis and the country have continued to invest in our campaign,” Bush said in a statement. “Voters want a true fighter in Congress ― that’s why we’ve raised half a million dollars purely from individual contributions from regular, everyday people.”

As is typical of progressive insurgent candidates, Bush’s donations have come almost entirely from small-dollar donors. Supporters donated about 12,000 times to her campaign in the second quarter, with an average contribution of $15.

Bush has plowed her fundraising dollars into a mail, digital and “connected TV” advertising campaign ― spots on streaming services like Hulu ― and retained $107,000 in cash on hand as of the end of June.

Cori Bush leads a march against police brutality on June 12 in University City, Missouri. For a second time, she is running to unseat Democratic Rep. William "Lacy" Clay.
Cori Bush leads a march against police brutality on June 12 in University City, Missouri. For a second time, she is running to unseat Democratic Rep. William "Lacy" Clay.
Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Clay, a 10-term incumbent, has yet to disclose his second-quarter fundraising figures. (Election law requires them to become public on July 15.)

As of the end of March, Clay had raised nearly $630,000 and had more than $515,000 in cash on hand. That gives him a major cash advantage, but not an insurmountable edge of the kind typically boasted by entrenched incumbents. More than $500,000 of the money he raised through the end of March came from political action committees; 79% of those PACs were funded by big business interests.

Clay, the son of St. Louis Rep. Bill Clay Sr., a civil rights leader, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a co-sponsor of Medicare for All legislation in the House.

While Clay checks many progressive boxes, he is not an advocate for independent progressive power in the House in the mold of the four-member “Squad” or California Rep. Ro Khanna. And he was behind the curve on police violence, voting against a June 2014 amendment that would have ended the transfer of military equipment to local police forces. The vote occurred mere months before Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked nationwide outrage at police use of Pentagon vehicles and weapons against protesters.

Bush, who lost to Clay by almost 20 percentage points in her 2018 run, is campaigning on a platform of Medicare for All, police demilitarization and reform, and the Green New Deal. She is backed by Justice Democrats, the left-wing group behind Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victories, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose presidential runs Bush supported.

Bush’s 2018 run was featured in the Jan. 2019 documentary “Knock Down the House.”

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