ST. LOUIS (AP) -- St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell announced Monday he will drop his bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley in 2024, and will instead make a run at a fellow Democrat -- U.S. Rep. Cori Bush.
Bell, 48, will oppose Bush in the 2024 Democratic primary for Missouri's 1st Congressional District seat that covers St. Louis and part of St. Louis County. The decision comes as Bush has taken criticism for her response to the Hamas attack on Israel, including her call in a social media post to end "US government support for Israeli military occupation and apartheid."
Bell and Bush are both Black, and both emerged as political forces in the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, a death that helped spark the national Black Lives Matter movement. Bush was elected to the House in 2020, pulling a stunning upset of Democratic veteran William Lacy Clay, and won re-election in 2022.
In 2018, Bell pulled an equally surprising upset when he unseated Bob McCulloch as St. Louis County prosecutor.
Bell said at a news conference that he was changing course, even though he felt he was the Democrat best positioned to defeat Hawley -- an admittedly tall task in very conservative Missouri. He said several people around the state urged him to run for Congress instead.
He also was critical of Bush's stance on Hamas and Israel.
"Understand this unique place that we are with the world literally on fire," Bell said. "I think that we need to make certain that we are providing that effective leadership, not only in our district but in D.C. and on the world stage."
A statement from the Bush campaign called it "disheartening that Prosecuting Attorney Bell has decided to abandon his US 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."
The statement said Bush was elected "on a bold, progressive vision" and her 2022 re-election offered a clear mandate.
"The Congresswoman remains laser focused on working with her Democratic colleagues to prevent MAGA extremists from further eroding our basic human rights and blocking critical resources for our communities, and she will keep pushing forward a pro-St. Louis, pro-democracy, pro-peace agenda. No matter who enters the race and when, that focus will not change," the statement said.