St. Louis County Prosecutor Westley Bell has decided to abandon his run for the U.S. Senate and will instead challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Cori Bush in the Democratic primary.
Bell, who shocked the Missouri political establishment in 2018 by defeating a seven-term incumbent to become St. Louis County prosecutor, announced his decision to challenge his fellow Democrat for the St. Louis-based seat on Monday.
“..over the last several weeks, as I’ve campaigned around the state, I’ve heard one refrain from Democrats above all else: Yes, we need you in Washington, but St. Louis needs you in the House of Representatives,” Bell said in a statement announcing his decision.
By jumping into the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary, Bell is setting up a showdown with someone who, like him, emerged on the political scene in the wake of the 2014 Ferguson protests.
Bush lost her initial run for Congress in 2018, then rebounded two years later to defeat 10-term incumbent William Lacy Clay in the heavily Democratic district.
She easily won re-election in 2022, defeating state Sen. Steve Roberts by more than 30 percentage points in the Democratic primary. During her time in Congress, she has been a high-profile member of a group of progressive Democrats nicknamed “The Squad.”
Bell’s election in 2018 as the first Black prosecutor in St. Louis County’s history was part of a wave of progressive wins in prosecutor races around the country seeking to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Before that, Bell worked as a public defender and served as a member of the Ferguson City Council.
In her latest filing with the Federal Election Committee, Bush reported having roughly $19,000 cash on hand, with an outstanding debt of almost $130,000.
Bell reported $88,000 cash on hand during the same reporting period.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Bush’s campaign panned Bell’s decision to jump into the 1st District race.
“It is disheartening that Prosecuting Attorney Bell has decided to abandon his U.S. Senate campaign to become Missouri’s first Black senator after less than five months, and has instead decided to target Missouri’s first Black congresswoman,” said Devon Moody, Bush’s campaign manager.
With Bell out of the Democratic Senate primary, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce and state Sen. Karla May remain highest profile candidates running to take on Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley next year. And between the two, Kunce holds a massive lead in fundraising and endorsements, reporting $1.7 million in his campaign compared to $14,000 for May.