Candidate who expressed support for BDS becomes Democratic nominee in Missouri congressional race

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Cori Bush, a civil rights activist who has expressed support for the boycott Israel movement, defeated a longtime pro-Israel incumbent in a Democratic congressional primary in St. Louis.

Bush defeated William Lacy Clay by 3 percentage points, 48.6% to 45.5% in the primary Tuesday.

In a now-deleted page on her campaign website, first uncovered by Jewish Insider, Bush expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, or BDS.

“In these times, it is important to be specific with our language and direct in the actions we take. In our current geopolitical economy, money talks far louder than speech alone,” the website said. “This is why nonviolent actions like the BDS movement are so important—and why the effort to mischaracterize and demonize the BDS movement by its opponents is so urgent.”

If Bush still holds these views, she is set to become the third BDS supporter in Congress; Missouri’s 1st District is solidly Democratic. The two incumbent BDS supporters, like Bush, are Democrats. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is leading in her primary in Detroit, which also took place Tuesday, although counting is not final. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis faces an opponent who supports Israel in a primary next Tuesday.

Foreign policy did not feature in the campaign except toward the end. In its final days, Lacy attempted to use Bush’s BDS backing against her, mailing a flyer that highlighted his pro-Israel record. It was headlined “Cori Bush stands with BDS … and BDS stands with her.”

Bush was backed by the party’s left, including the Justice Democrats group and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. She became an activist for Black rights after the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. She failed in her first attempt to oust Clay in 2018.

Clay has been a congressman since 2001 and was preceded by his father, Bill Clay, a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus who was elected in 1968. Like the vast majority of representatives, he voted to condemn the BDS movement in a nonbinding vote last year.