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Politically Speaking: Congressman Clay on the 1st Congressional District's importance to Democrats

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay speaks at a press conference earlier this year.
Wiley Price I St. Louis American
U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay speaks at a press conference earlier this year.

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay to the program.

Clay recently emerged victorious in a contested Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District, which encompasses St. Louis and parts of St. Louis County. Both Lacy Clay and his father Bill Clay have represented the 1st District since 1969, and in the process have cultivated one of the state’s most important political organizations.

The St. Louis Democrat was in Washington, D.C., when the podcast was recorded. He took part Thursday in a Congressional Black Caucus march decrying recent police shootings of African-Americans in Tulsa and Charlotte. The 1st Congressional District includes all of Ferguson, which has been under the national spotlight for nearly two years since the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Before Thursday’s event, Clay was one of the strongest backers of state Rep. Penny Hubbard’s re-election bid against Bruce Franks. He wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressing concern that the short time frame to prepare for the special election would make it harder to vote. Franks won a special election last Friday by a landslide, and Clay says the two have talked since that time.

After defeating state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal and St. Louis School Board member Bill Haas in August, Clay is heavily favored to win over Republican Steven Bailey in November.

Here’s what Clay had to say during the show:

  • After defeating him in a bitter 2012 congressional primary, Clay says he’s now on good terms with former U.S. Congressman Russ Carnahan. Carnahan is the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor this fall. “After 2012, we repaired our relationship,” Clay said. “My position is always: ‘Hey after the election is over, the people have made their decision.’ And in this case, we were victorious. And so I moved on. We are cordial. We talk. We are collaborating on this race.”
  • But Clay says he’s talked less with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Koster. Clay has taken issue at times with Koster’s position on gun issues; Koster has received the endorsement of the NRA.
  • He said that statewide candidates can’t take the 1st Congressional District for granted, especially since a large percentage of Democratic voters live there. “You have to speak to our needs and to our issues – or else you’re going to have an enthusiasm gap,” he said. “The days of just voting a straight Democratic ticket are over.”
  • While he said he had plenty of reasons to back Hubbard during the 78th District special election, Clay said he’s looking forward “to having a working relationship with (Franks) in the interest of our mutual constituents.” “I never had a problem with him personally,” he said. “But I strongly objected to a process that threw away over 4,300 votes because the St. Louis Election Board failed to obey the law.”
  • Clay says that Republican leaders have become more receptive to policies aimed at repairing the divide between African-Americans and law enforcement. He notes that House Speaker Paul Ryan created a task force earlier this year that includes members of the Congressional Black Caucus. “The Republican leadership realizes we have to address the model of policing that we live under now and push to change it,” he said. “It doesn’t help anybody when innocent African-Americans get shot and killed or police are targeted and killed.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Lacy Clay on Twitter: @LacyClayMO1

Music: “Jigsaw Falling into Place” by Radiohead

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.