Rep. William Lacy Clay (D)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: July 27, 1956, St. Louis .
Home: St. Louis.
Education: U. of MD, B.S. 1983.
Family: Divorced; 2 children.
Elected office: MO House of Reps., 1983-90; MO Senate, 1991-2000.
Professional Career: Asst. doorkeeper, U.S. House of Reps, 1976-83; Paralegal, 1982-2000; Real estate agent, 1986-2000.
The congressman from the 1st District is William Lacy Clay, a Democrat first elected in 2000 to the seat that his father Bill Clay had held for 32 years. Born in St. Louis, he moved to the Washington, D.C., area at age 12 after his father’s election to the House in 1968. He attended public schools in suburban Silver Spring, Md., and then the University of Maryland, studying by night for seven years while he worked as a House staffer by day. He had started law classes at Howard University in 1983, when a special election for the state House drew him back to St. Louis. Party leaders appointed him the Democratic nominee. Eight years later, he was again chosen by party leaders to run in a special election for a safely Democratic state Senate seat.
|William Lacy Clay (D)||242,570||(87%)||($622,529)|
|Robb Cunningham (Lib)||36,700||(13%)|
|William Lacy Clay (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (73%), 2004 (75%), 2002 (70%), 2000 (75%)
Then in 1999, his father decided to retire from Congress, after helping to enact many labor and education laws he had fought for. Clay wanted to take his father’s place, but he had a serious primary contest. St. Louis Councilman Charlie Dooley raised nearly $400,000 and was an African American with a base of support in the mostly white suburbs of St. Louis County. Dooley campaigned that the office should not be “inherited,” and he attacked what he called Clay’s old-style tactics of political threats and bossism. The St. Louis Labor Council and Missouri AFL-CIO, long allied with Bill Clay, declined to endorse his son, but more than 30 locals endorsed him. Lacy Clay played up his father’s name and revved up the still reliable machine. He won the primary 61%-28% over Dooley, winning St. Louis City 76%-12% and St. Louis County, where twice as many votes were cast, 49%-39%. In the general election, Clay won 75%-22%.
In the House, Clay has had a mostly liberal voting record, although it turned centrist on some economic issues in recent years. He has worked to protect voting rights for blacks and the reliability of electronic voting equipment. A member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Clay chairs the Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee, with jurisdiction ranging from the Freedom of Information Act to the Census Bureau—a useful post for black Americans concerned about maximizing rights in the next redistricting after 2010. “The census is really about three things: money, information and political representation,” Clay says. In 2007, he helped enact a rewrite of the freedom of information law to expedite requests and the handling of disputes; he also foiled an attempt by the Bush Administration to eliminate a Census Bureau program that provides information on the effect that federal programs have on the poor. On foreign policy, he called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2006 and famously described President Bush as an “incompetent chickenhawk.” The following year, he cosponsored a bill to impeach Vice President Cheney. And Clay led opposition to the request of Rep. Stephen Cohen, a white Democrat from Tennessee, to join the Congressional Black Caucus. “It’s an unwritten rule” that only African Americans can belong, Clay said.
Clay has not been seriously challenged for reelection. His biggest concern may be the declining population in his district, and its implications for the next round of redistricting. The 1st District was the only one in the state to lose population between 2000 and 2006.