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Cori Bush Wants To Make Sure That Someone Is ‘Fighting For The Regular Person’ In Washington

If she wins her bid for office in November, Bush will become the first Black woman elected to represent Missouri in Congress.

Courtesy of Craig Phelps

When Cori Bush was leading protests in Missouri after Michael Brown, a Black 18-year-old, was killed by a white police officer in 2014, she noticed that few, if any, elected officials had joined in. Growing up, she was familiar with politics: Her father is a former Northwoods mayor and current City Council member. She had also seen its dark side, and vowed to never get involved, instead becoming a nurse and pastor. 

Bush had spent most of her adult life struggling. At one point, she was evicted from her home and lived out of her car with her two small children and then-husband, who would move the vehicle around the neighborhood at night. Out at the protests, she realized that it was the community members, not the elected officials, who were trying to win justice, Bush told The Appeal. “That was when I decided that the only way to get at the heart of the group of the people out here every single day putting their lives on the line was to run,” she said. 

In 2016, Bush launched an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate and two years later lost a bid to unseat Representative William Lacy Clay in the U.S. House of Representatives. For more than a half-century, the House seat for Missouri’s First Congressional District, which encompasses Ferguson and St. Louis, had been filled by either Clay or his father. But in August, Bush built on the momentum from her 2018 campaign and defeated Clay in the Democratic primary, effectively ensuring she would be elected to serve the heavily Democratic district. If Bush wins in November, she would be the first Black woman elected to represent Missouri in Congress. 

In Washington, D.C., one of Bush’s priorities will be stopping police brutality. “We have to deal with the system on every side,” she said. “It’s not just the officers. The officers continue to do what they do because our system allows them to.” Along with working to abolish police unions that she says protect officers, she supports the introduction of a national police misconduct registry that would be available to the public. “As a nurse, if something happens that’s misconduct or medical negligence…That becomes public information,” she said. “I believe the same thing should happen for officers.” 

Bush also has a plan to reform the country’s prisons and jails, where roughly 2.2 million people are incarcerated. She wants to end cash bail, reform parole policies to reduce the prison population (there is currently no federal parole), and make it easier for prisoners to re-enter society after serving their sentences. Bush told The Appeal that she wants to crack down on corporations making money off incarcerated people by charging them exorbitant rates for essential items from the commissary and phone calls. “I just feel like it’s a very unfair system,” she said. Prisoners use their often meager work wages to pay for those items. Bush said she hopes to one day introduce legislation that would require prisons to pay workers the prevailing minimum wage in their state. 

Bush has earned endorsements from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, along with a slew of organizations and parties including Justice Democrats, Working Families Party, and the National Education Association. 

Education is a key part of Bush’s platform and she shared with The Appeal her robust plan to make it better for all children. Among her priorities are modernizing infrastructure in crumbling facilities, increasing funding for student lunches, and installing community gardens at every school. “We have to make sure that no child is hungry,” she said. 

When speaking to students, she said she frequently hears that they do not want to attend school because they don’t have clean clothes and want to avoid being teased. To solve this, she wants every school to put in washing machines and dryers accessible to students. And as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced children to learn at home, she believes it’s necessary for the government to implement a national broadband network and more funding for tutors. She’d also like therapists and social workers to replace school resource officers. 

Once she’s in Washington, she said she would continue to be motivated to serve the same people who she protests alongside. “My role is to be what I’ve always wanted to see, that’s somebody actually fighting for the regular person,” she said. “I feel like that role starts with fighting for the person who has the least in this district and looking at everything else I do from that lens.”