Kimberly Gardner was elected St. Louis’ first Black circuit attorney in 2016 propelled by a progressive surge in the Democratic Party in the city and a national push for criminal justice reform. She ran unopposed in the general election, so the race was won in the primary where her victory was decisive. In a crowded field of four credible candidates, she nearly doubled the vote total of her opponent who came in second. Gardner won with 19,615 votes (46.6%), whereas Mary Pat Carl finished second with 9,924 votes (23.6%). In the August 4 Democratic Primary, Gardner’s only challenger will be Carl. The choice for voters is a clear and simple one, and we believe that an even more progressive city electorate energized by a resurgent Black Lives Matter movement will choose to re-elect a strong, fearless Black woman and support her in her continuing efforts to reform a badly broken criminal justice system.
Under Gardner’s leadership, the city has seen a decrease in the detainee population, especially among those with low-level offenses, including the minor marijuana possession cases that have interrupted so many Black lives. She increased and innovated diversion programs to give offenders committed to positive change a second chance before enduring the stigma of a conviction and the drastic life setback of prison time. And more than any prosecutor in St. Louis has ever done, she stood up to the police and the St. Louis Police Officers Association, owning up to keeping a Brady List of unreliable police witnesses whose cases she won’t charge and using independent investigators in cases where she didn’t trust the police or simply could not get them to do their jobs.
Gardner’s opponent has on her side the criminal justice status quo that has closed ranks to attack Gardner in a series of attempts to limit her powers and drive her from office. Jeff Roorda, the police association business agent, said Gardner should be removed “by force or by choice.” This apparent call for either physical harm or some municipal version of a coup is only the most dangerous of many statements made at her expense — all made by people who, like Roorda, are white men who don’t vote in the city. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt worked with the police and Republican state legislators (unsuccessfully) to try to usurp charging authority in the city. Schmitt then lied outright in social media and on national television about Gardner’s handling of property damage cases on volatile protest nights. U.S. Senator Josh Hawley repeated those lies. Gardner previously accused former Gov. Eric Greitens’ powerful defense attorneys of threatening to damage her career if she pursued charges against their client. All of these men, who can’t vote for or against Gardner, have contributed to an ugly, racist, misogynist climate of fear directed at this courageous Black woman that puts more than her career at risk. “By force or by choice” – think about that.
To this list of powerful white men who have maligned or obstructed Gardner, we must now add Gov. Mike Parson and (unbelievably) even President Trump. On Tuesday, July 14, both Parson and Trump inserted themselves into Gardner’s investigation of Mark and Patricia McCloskey for confronting peaceful protestors with weapons; both said the McCloskeys were blameless, and Trump even said Gardner’s investigation of them is a “disgrace.” Unlike Trump, Parson, Schmitt, Hawley, Roorda, Greitens or Greitens’ defense attorneys, none of whom live in the City of St. Louis, we believe that city voters will see lies and intimidation based on white fear for what they are and keep Kimberly Gardner in office by choice.
Her opponent sees the progressive movement in the city and thirst for criminal justice reform and is running as smart rather than tough on crime. But Carl is the choice for those who are desperately clinging to the status quo that has withheld justice from and completely devastated poor and Black communities in our city. Carl was in the leadership team of Gardner’s predecessor and had her endorsement in 2016, when Carl was all law and order, with no pretense of reform. “I’ve dedicated my professional career to holding criminals accountable for the crimes they commit and ensuring justice is served,” Carl announced in 2016. “I’m confident that as a community we can make our streets safer and ensure our courts are fair.” Electing Carl as circuit attorney would take us back four years, and that is something St. Louis cannot afford. We must move forward with Kimberly Gardner. We will leave the threat of “force” to the cowards trying to intimidate this committed Black woman leader, but the choice for circuit attorney on the August 4 ballot is clear. We strongly endorse KIMBERLY GARDNER AS CIRCUIT ATTORNEY FOR THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS.