Former state lawmaker Maria Chappelle-Nadal jumps into 1st Congressional District race
The Democratic primary for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District has a new entrant: former state lawmaker Maria Chappelle-Nadal.
The University City Democrat made the announcement in a web video Tuesday, saying, “It’s time to have a conversation about effective public service for our country, and that’s why I’m running for Congress.”
“I believe the citizens of St. Louis deserve a better choice,” Chappelle-Nadal said in an interview Wednesday. “When it comes to leadership in Congress, I have been looking at many of the issues that are important to our citizens. And in many cases, they're not being clearly defined or brought forth to the public as they should.”
She will face Rep. Cori Bush and St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell in the Democratic primary on Aug. 6.
Chappelle-Nadal served for eight years in the Missouri House and eight years in the Missouri Senate, representing portions of St. Louis County in both jobs.
Like Bush and Bell, Chappelle-Nadal was one of the major political figures who were involved in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson.
Chappelle-Nadal spent weeks on the streets of Ferguson with protesters and fiercely criticized then-Gov. Jay Nixon’s response. She also spent time in the House and Senate advocating for people who became sickened due to radioactive waste exposure.
“So, when you have to have the fire in your belly to talk about an issue that is so important to the community, there may be some people who don't like how that is done. And that's OK. Because we are living in a democratic society. And we always have the First Amendment right to share what our concerns are."
She said in her video she has more legislative experience than Bell and Bush, the incumbent, combined. She also said she’s been dismayed with how Bell has performed as prosecutor and alluded in her video about a federal investigation into Bush’s campaign spending.
Spokespeople for Bush and Bell did not immediately provide comments about Chappelle-Nadal's entry into the 1st District primary.
“I already have a legacy in St. Louis, I already have a reputation for fighting for issues that are just and provide equity to people who are most vulnerable,” Chappelle-Nadal said.
This will be Chappelle-Nadal’s second bid for Congress. She ran unsuccessfully against then-Congressman Lacy Clay in 2016.
In 2017, Chappelle-Nadal was criticized for saying in a Facebook post that then-President Donald Trump should be assassinated. She apologized for the comment and was eventually censured by her Senate colleagues.
Chappelle-Nadal ran for one more term in the House after she was censured and won a contested Democratic primary and the general election by a wide margin. She noted that her constituents greeted her warmly as she campaigned in the sweltering heat.
“There would be women and grandmothers who would say: ‘Baby, give me a hug.’ And I would say: ‘No, I'm sweating. I've been going door to door all day.’ And they would respond by saying, ‘I don't care,’” Chappelle-Nadal said. “And that, in itself, is what warmed my heart. I don't know if it's the biggest achievement ever. But it did confirm that people want a fighter.”
After term-limiting out of the Missouri House, Chappelle-Nadal worked for St. Louis County Councilwoman Rita Days, D-Bel Nor. But the two former state senators had a falling out, and Chappelle-Nadal reached a $77,000 settlement in a lieu of a lawsuit over her dismissal.
Bush and Bell recently had bountiful fundraising quarters and could receive the help of deep-pocketed third-party groups.
Asked if she’ll be able to compete with two candidates who have already begun the process of building campaign and fundraising organizations, Chappelle-Nadal replied, “My objective is to be competitive.”
“And so it looks a lot like the Senate district that I ran in, in 2010 and in 2014, but it's bigger than that,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “And I think people are issue based and care about that.”
One of the key dividing lines between Bell and Bush is Israel’s military response in Gaza after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. Bush has been a strong critic of Israel before and during the war, while Bell has supported Israel.
Chappelle-Nadal noted that she visited Israel in 2008 and believes “in a sovereign Israel.” She supports a two-state solution, in which there is a Palestinian state that encompasses the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
She added that she represented a large number of Jewish constituents in the legislature and often advocated for their needs both in Jefferson City and as a member of the University City School Board.
“And I will also say, I'm different in the sense because I know how blessed I am to live in a community that's so diverse,” she said, referring to University City. “And to be lucky to say that I have a bunch of Jewish mothers who have often chimed in on my legislation.”
Whoever wins the Democratic primary in the district will likely win in November since the seat tilts heavily toward Democrats.