Medicaid Expansion, Tight Races Bring Missouri Voters Out

Susan Bushman and Dave Sincovic were among the protesters demonstrating against stay-at-home orders at the Missouri State Capitol on April 21. (Courthouse News photo/Joe Harris)

(CN) — Following the trend of eye-raising political upsets by Progressive Democrats, Cori Bush has ended Lacy Clay’s reign as Missouri’s U.S. House of Representatives District 1 delegate.

With 100% of the votes in, Bush beat Clay 48.6-45.5. The final vote count was 72,812 votes for Bush to 68,201 for Clay.

In an acceptance speech, Bush thanked God, her family and her campaign.

“You know I’m just the protester,” Bush said. “I’m just an activist with no name, no title and no real money. They said that. But St. Louis showed up today.”

Clay, a Democrat, had held his post for 20 years and he took over after his father, Bill Clay, retired after holding the seat since 1968. Bush unsuccessfully ran against Clay in 2018. Though fellow progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed her, Clay still won by more than 28,000 votes (a 57-37 split).

Bush attacked Clay’s leadership, claiming the region has become stagnant and mediocre, banking that the area’s black voters will desire a change.

Bush doesn’t have Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement this time around, but she has name recognition and a sizable war chest, reporting $562,000 raised with $127,000 cash in hand, according to Opensecrets.org. Clay has raised more than $740,000 and has $389,000 cash in hand.

Bush has used her money on a TV ad campaign highlighting her efforts as an activist within the Black Lives Matter movement. She hopes to get a boost from being featured in the Netflix film, “Knock Down the House,” which highlighted progressive Democrats challenging incumbents.

She has attacked Clay’s leadership, claiming the region has become stagnant and mediocre, banking that the area’s black voters will desire a change.

Clay ran on his own record. He fills key roles on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Oversight Committee, and his campaign notes he has consistently backed the positions of progressive Democrats such as the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and Trump’s impeachment.

In statewide races, the stage has been set for a highly anticipated showdown between incumbent Republican Governor Mike Parson and Democratic challenger Nicole Galloway.

Parson has declared victory with 75% of the Republican ballots and Galloway was declared the winner with 86% of the Democratic votes, setting up what could be the most competitive and expensive governor’s race in the country.

According to the most recent SLU/YouGov poll, Governor Mike Parson holds just a two-point lead over Galloway, who currently serves as the state auditor. This represents a dramatic divergence from the 13-point lead Parson enjoyed in another poll in March.

Both sides have already raised considerable funds. Galloway brought in more than $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2020 even without any in-person events, according to the Missouri Times. Parson reported $1.4 million cash on hand.

But how the candidates respond — or don’t — to Covid-19 could ultimately decide this race.

Parson has been reluctant to issue a state-wide mask mandate despite surging new cases throughout Missouri. Galloway has attacked Parson’s leadership during the pandemic and criticized him for not wearing a mask during public appearances.

Parson has sided with Trump in a pro-police “law and order” stance regarding the protests stemming from George Floyd’s death. He also opposes state Medicaid expansion, a hot button topic on this primary ballot.

Galloway supports Medicaid expansion. She also supports the Black Lives Matter movement and has a plan to invest in Missouri’s black communities and reform the state’s criminal justice system.

But perhaps more than the candidates, for many Missouri voters, the issue of Medicaid expansion drove them to the polls.

A measure known as Amendment 2 aims to expand Medicaid enrollment options for adults 19-65 with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty line. With 98% reporting, the measure appears to have passed with 51.7% of the vote.

“Heck no, I’m not paying for anybody else’s insurance,” Angie Korty said while leaving a Jefferson County polling station. “I don’t have insurance. When I had a hospital bill, I just went through Commerce Bank and paid it off.”

A voter named Kourtney in north St. Louis County had a different perspective.

“We’re one of the few developed nations that doesn’t have universal health care and I feel like we’re doing our citizens a disservice,” Kourtney said. “So, expanding it, well, it’s just a small step in the right direction.”

Covid-19 has changed the look of elections, but Missouri still expects to have results in by the end of Tuesday night.

The state does foresee an increase in absentee voting after the legislature passed SB 631, which expanded absentee voting in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. But a state spokesperson said all absentee ballots are due to local election authorities by the close of polls on Tuesday and should not affect the tabulation of results.

At 5 p.m., officials in both St. Louis County and City were reporting turnouts of over 30%. So far there seem to be few problems.

“I felt real safe,” Christopher Cook said as he left a north St. Louis County polling station. “I like how they had it set up in there. Everybody was six feet apart, everybody in there was wearing masks. There’s some people in there even wearing gloves. It did calm my fears. I was worried when I first came in how it was going to be.”

Bob Hahn, a stage four chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patient, chose to vote in person in Jefferson County with an oxygen machine strapped to his waist.

He was undeterred, even with Covid-19 cases tripling in the county in the last month.

“My health is my responsibility, not anyone else’s,” Hahn said.

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