A few days ago I was talking with Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal about the issues that propelled her to take up the usually thankless task of challenging a long-time incumbent from one’s own party. She was talking about a slew of issues centered around equal opportunity, education and income inequality when it dawned on me that she sounded an awful lot like Bernie Sanders in terms of what was motivating her intense commitment to public service.
In Missouri’s 1st congressional district the high poverty areas have the worst school systems, the worst outcomes for students, and the largest number of unaccredited schools. This issue is personal for Maria. As eloquent and articulate as she is now, she was born with a speech impediment. It was 8 years of speech therapy and public school that helped her overcome this disability. Please give what you can to help her take this important House seat away from a deadbeat Rep. who needs to go, Now!
“Maria,” I said, “have you endorsed Bernie?” She said she hadn’t gotten around to it yet because she was so busy talking with constituents in her St. Louis area district about the dangers and health risks inherent in the radioactive waste that’s been dumped near their homes. And when she wasn’t doing that, she was in Springfield leading the filibuster of a Republican attempt to amend the state constitution making it legal for businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians, under the guise of so-called “religious liberty.”
Friday, when the Republicans shut down the state Senate she found some time to tweet out a Bernie endorsement. It makes plenty of sense because they’re both cut from the same progressive cloth, even if he’s from Vermont by way of Brooklyn and she’s from suburban St Louis.
For many TV viewers around the country, Maria Chappelle-Nadal was the face and the voice of Ferguson. It’s her district and her neighbors and she wasn’t backing down. She was out in the streets being tear gassed for hours along with the other members of the stunned community. “Ferguson,” she said, “taught me ‘silence is violence…’ [and] Ferguson taught me I will not ever be silent when our rules and laws are not respected.”
Ferguson stiffened her resolve to be strong for the under-served residents north of St. Louis and to turn up the heat on the radioactive waste scandal the establishment is trying to bury. She wondered how white voters in her district would feel about her outspokenness and her intensity. The response was overwhelming and positive, black and white voters alike telling her that the same silence that allowed Michael Brown’s death to happen is the same silence that is allowing the radioactive waste problems to happen.
She is passionate about getting federal help to clean up the crisis of radioactive waste which is, in a way, a form of “environmental poverty,” she says. Guess where the landfill sites are? Did you guess black neighborhoods? Ding, ding, ding! Correct. Though they are all over the place. Recently there was a proposal to build the new football stadium on top of one of these sites. The team already practices on top of one of these waste sites! This crisis in the St. Louis area– with its horrifying “cancer-clusters”– isn’t new, it’s been going on for decades. For amost 40 years it’s been widely known how dangerous the situation is. I’m not sure the Maria is even 40 years old, but she knows about it now and it seems as if she will not sleep until something is done about it.
The incumbent congressman, House Financial Services Committee crook, William Lacey Gray, doesn’t give a rat’s ass about public service, and it’s time for him to move on and make way for someone who does– someone who can shake up a somnolent Democratic House caucus in Washington and remind Democrats who they are there to serve– i.e., not themselves and their campaign donors. Blue America is proud to have endorsed Maria Chappelle-Nadal for Congress and we urge you to consider contributing to her grassroots campaign today.