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A Democratic state senator in Missouri who has been accused of rape more than once may be preparing to launch a primary campaign against a popular, progressive incumbent Congresswoman who has been outspoken about her own experience as a victim of sexual assault.
The suspicion that State Sen. Steven Roberts could be inching closer to challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Cori Bush was only bolstered after the former’s Wikipedia page was recently scrubbed of all references to past rape allegations against him, including one by his former fellow lawmaker Cora Faith Walker, who recently died.
Roberts, for his part, has not given any direct indications that he is planning to seek Bush’s seat in the U.S. House. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported earlier this month that Roberts was looking to redraw Congressional district lines in a move that political insiders said suggested he was positioning himself to take on Bush.
“Steve Roberts wants … less Cori Bush voters, to be quite honest,” Republican and Missouri State Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz told the Post-Dispatch. “That’s it. I mean, if Steve Roberts is running against Cori Bush, why do you think he would want to change the map?
Amazingly, there was no reference to Roberts’ past rape accusations in that article by the Post-Dispatch.
But on Monday, the Intercept reported the changes to Roberts’ Wikipedia page, lending more credence to Schatz’s belief that the state senator will be running for Congress. A spokesman for Roberts denied any knowledge of the changes to the page on a website that is notorious for allowing users to make carte blanche edits.
The St. Louis Business Journal also fueled more speculation when it published an article making a case for a “free pass” that Roberts has to challenge Bush. “It’s a race that could see the establishment ‘strike back,’” the local news outlet tweeted on Monday.
Roberts, who identifies as Black, was first accused of rape in 2015 after a law school student reported his alleged actions to the police, resulting in the then-assistant prosecutor at the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office being arrested for “suspicion of second-degree sodomy.”
The following year, Cora Faith Walker — then a candidate for Missouri State Rep. — also accused Roberts of rape following an apparent celebration of both winning their respective primary elections. Walker wrote a letter to the state legislature making the claims. But Roberts was never charged after a local prosecutor said “there simply wasn’t enough credible evidence that sexual relations between these two people were anything but consensual.”
Roberts later echoed that sentiment and tried to shame Walker in a statement released by his lawyers:
Mrs. Walker’s letter to legislative leaders a few days ago makes an unbelievable statement that she, an attorney and married woman, went to another man’s apartment at 9:30 pm on a Friday night for strictly a business meeting. We actually arrived together to my apartment closer to 11:00 pm. While I am not proud of this situation, it was entirely consensual and I did nothing illegal.
Walker was found dead on March 11 in a hotel in St. Louis. No cause of death was immediately announced and a preliminary investigation determined there was no foul play involved, according to the local Fox News affiliate.
The potential Democratic primary showdown between Bush and Roberts gets more complicated when you factor in her own admission that she was the victim of rape as a teenager in St. Louis decades ago. Bush made the disclosure last year as Republicans moved to enact tighter restrictions on abortion laws. Bush said she had an abortion after becoming pregnant following her rape in 1994 when she was just 17 years old.
Roberts has until March 29 to file papers and make his candidacy official.