UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. — For Missouri Democrats, success or failure this fall will likely hinge on whether they can come together as a party and persuade voters to get to the polls.
About 60-plus local residents packed a room at the University City Public Library to hear from U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr., who urged the Clayton Township Democrats to connect to people and energize the Democratic base in St. Louis and throughout the state.
Clay also spoke on the legislative session in Washington D.C., some of the most pressing issues Democrats face this year and what the parties values are moving forward.
“I’m here to ask for your help to continue the efforts that we have started in serving this community,” Clay said. “As you all know, there’s quite a bit more to do at the federal level. We have an administration that is hostile to everything we’ve achieved over the last 10 years in this country and we need your help getting some seats back.”
Clay also said his party needs to make clear why they should back Democrats this fall. He added that the party cannot be divided following primary elections, but should instead unify behind a Democratic candidate in any and every race.
“Trump is going to keep his base, so we need to energize our base,” Clay said. “We need to come together after the primaries and unite. Don’t just show up during a presidential year, show up at every election.”
The veteran lawmaker emphasized that Democrats need to promote what they’re for, not just what they oppose, and in a more concise manner. Clay said economics should be at the forefront as well as a continuation of the fight to make healthcare universal.
Many Democrats and progressives are hoping for November ballot proposals to block the right to work law. Clay vowed to continue fighting that legislation but said that’s not the most important thing when trying to unify the party.
“I believe in fighting the right to work initiative, but the average person trying to eek out an existence, that doesn’t connect to them,” Clay said. “Part of the educational process of this is, we’re going to have to get the majority first to even start introducing legislation. Democrats need to understand you cannot be so rigid that you don’t support somebody because they’re not with you on everything.”
Clay, who attended the March For Our Lives event in St. Louis last weekend, also spoke on gun control and said the state is going in the wrong direction.
“My stance is that we need to enhance background checks, outlaw armor-piercing bullets in order to protect law enforcement and we need to eliminate more than a 10-clip magazine,” he said. “All of those are common sense approaches to what we can do to keep Americans safer.”
Clay is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 1st congressional district, serving since 2001. The district, based in the city of St. Louis includes most of northern St. Louis County, including Maryland Heights, University City and Florissant.
Clay recently made headlines when the Department of Commerce announced its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
Clay called it “a shameful attempt to intimidate and disenfranchise minorities and new immigrants.” He added that the Trump administration’s “ridiculous assertion that this question will be used to better comply with what remains of the Voting Rights Act is absurd and highly insulting.”
He expanded on his comments and distaste for the new question being added to the Census at the meeting.
“This is just one example of what this is administration is doing,” Clay said. “They use the excuse that this will help them better enforce the Voting Rights Act. It would be laughable if it wasn’t true. I say this to tell you that after these primaries are decided, we as a party have to come together in order to change the trajectory of this country.”
The Township also heard from its new Democratic Committeeman and St Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who introduced Clay.
“Having a person who stands up for this individuals in Congress at the federal level is extremely important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called this man about issues we’ve been having at the federal level,” Stenger said of Clay. “The ability to communicate, the willingness to communicate, the willingness to help — he will drop everything to return your call if he knows you need help. He sticks up for his constituents, he’s really been a role model for me and somebody that I look up to greatly.”
The Clayton Township Democrats will not meet again until May 15, when they plan to endorse candidates whose districts fall within the Township.