Jefferson City NAACP recognizes congressional candidate

Democratic congressional candidate Cori Bush received an award Friday night from the Jefferson City NAACP - the first time the chapter had given the particular award.

Bush, who is running for Missouri's 1st District congressional seat and would be the state's first Black congresswoman, was given a Trailblazer Award in a virtual fundraising dinner.

Rod Chapel, who is president of both the Jefferson City and Missouri NAACP, told the News Tribune: "This is the first time that an individual has received the Trailblazer Award from the Jefferson City unit of the NAACP. The award is bestowed on an individual who has demonstrated leadership, advocacy and compassion for others in their community. Cori Bush demonstrates all of these qualities.

"Four hundred days on the front lines of Ferguson acting as a pastor and medic, advocacy that has extended into Jefferson City for the fair treatment of individuals regardless of color, and as a leader for health care expansion to all in need has demonstrated the qualities the NAACP seeks to replicate," he added of Bush. "She is a woman of and for the people as demonstrated by her past service to humanity. That is a trailblazer."

Bush has been criticized for a tweet she sent Tuesday: "If you're having a bad day, just think of all the social services we're going to fund after we defund the Pentagon."

Gov. Mike Parson, in particular, criticized her statement, saying on Wednesday "When you talk about defunding the Pentagon, that is not to be taken lightly by anybody in the state of Missouri," given defense contractors and military installations' economic contributions to the state. Parson added he also took it personally as a veteran, taking Bush's statement as an attack on military service.

Bush later defended her position by tweeting military spending takes up too much of the federal budget compared to Medicare and health, education, Social Security, unemployment and the Department of Labor, that it's wrong to give "weapons of war to local police departments with no accountability or oversight," and cuts to the military's budget could be used to expand health care coverage under Medicare, "guarantee housing" and "enact a Green New Deal. We can make sure no veteran goes unhoused or without care. We can have a government that actually works for us."

"At least three generations of my family have served this country in the military. My father's been a public servant his entire life. I'm going to Congress to build a country they'll be proud of," she added.

None of that came up Friday night, however.

Bush said it was not her lifelong dream to run for Congress, but she did because there was a need to.

She had some criticisms for Parson and other statewide elected officials - including for education budget restrictions this year, and for the 2017 death of Tory Sanders in a Mississippi County jail not being prosecuted - but she also spoke about a turning point in her time spent in Ferguson, after the death of Michael Brown in 2014.

On the night it was announced the white officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, "was going to get off the hook," Bush described how she was trying to help a woman who she was told was having a heart attack.

She said rather than let her through with the woman to paramedics, police knocked her to the ground and stomped on her.

However, she said "I don't hate police," and "We can't win with hate."

"I got up, and I realized that this is the work. That showed me that we have to do so much more work," Bush added.

In particular, in response to a question about voter disenfranchisement, she said "I wish we had more funding to be able to expand campaigns around voter education," to let people know their rights - including so formerly incarcerated people know they can register to vote, that there will not be police officers at polls checking people for warrants and there will not be U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials targeting immigrant communities at polling locations.

On the local level, Chapel applauded this week's 8-2 decision by the Jefferson City Council to remove a Civil War marker dedicated to the city in 1933 by the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

He added the NAACP would continue to work to get Jefferson City police officers to wear body cameras, and he would hope to have a system under the NAACP's ongoing travel advisory for the state that could separate more problematic jurisdictions from others.

The NAACP has continued to be concerned with racial disparities in traffic stops, evidenced in an annual report by the state's attorney general.