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'I'm ready for the challenge' | Cori Bush on toppling a St. Louis political dynasty

Bush made history Tuesday night after ousting Rep. William Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District

ST. LOUIS — She didn’t get much sleep Tuesday night and she has one more opponent to go in the general election, but Cori Bush said she’s ready to fight for St. Louis.

“I’m ready for the challenge,” Bush told 5 On Your Side political editor Casey Nolen in her first interview Wednesday morning.

Bush made history Tuesday night after ousting Rep. William Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District. He has held that seat for 10 terms since the year 2000 when his father, Bill Clay, retired. Bill Clay had served for 32 years.

Bush’s victory toppled a 52-year political dynasty in the St. Louis area.

RELATED: Progressive activist Cori Bush beats 10-term U.S. Congressman Lacy Clay in Democratic primary

Missouri's 1st Congressional District is made up of St. Louis city and parts of St. Louis County. With 100% of the vote in St. Louis and St. Louis County, Bush beat Clay 72,812 to 68,201.

Tuesday was a rematch of 2018 for Bush and Clay, when she lost to the longtime lawmaker. Bush said her message has stayed the same, but this time around, Bush and her supporters said protests over George Floyd’s death and outrage over racial injustice finally pushed her over the edge.

“St. Louis changed,” she said. “One thing, St. Louis is tired of what was handed down from the Trump administration. Even with the Ferguson protests, up through Stockley, up to now with the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor protests, people have seen me be that active leader,” Bush said.

Bush, 44, became a leader of some of the many protests following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, and she continues to lead demonstrations.

Before taking on the role of activist, Bush faced several challenges of her own.

She became ill while pregnant with her second child in 2001 and had to quit her job at a preschool. When she and her then-husband were evicted from a rental home, the couple, their newborn and 14-month-old son lived out of a Ford Explorer for several months.

Eventually, the couple divorced. Bush earned a nursing degree. She also became a pastor.

Bush told 5 On Your Side her life experiences would help her as congresswoman if she wins in November.

“I am the people I serve,” she said. “I didn’t coin that, but I say that because you talk about low wage, I’ve been low wage. You talk about being unhoused, I’ve been unhoused. I’ve been uninsured. So, I can speak to those things differently.”

If she is elected in November, Bush said her first priority on Capitol Hill is addressing financial relief programs related to the coronavirus.

“First of all, COVID relief, $2,000 a month for each and every person 16 and up to get us through another year,” she said.

While on the campaign trail, Bush had all the symptoms of COVID-19, but she ended up testing negative for the virus. In early April, she told 5 On Your Side that doctors thought she had pneumonia.

Bush also said she wants to put more money in social programs and reinvest in public education.

The Democrat will face Republican Anthony Rogers in November.

If elected, Bush would become the first Black woman to represent a part of Missouri in Congress.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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