ST. LOUIS — St. Louis' elected prosecutor has said she will run for reelection in 2024, even as she tries to fend off an effort by Missouri's attorney general to force her out of office.
Democratic Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner spoke Tuesday night at an often-raucous public forum and made it clear that not only will she not resign, but that she plans to run again.
Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey last month filed a lawsuit asking a judge to remove Gardner from office, accusing her of incompetence. Bailey cited a low rate of convictions in homicide cases, accused Gardner of failing to keep crime victims and their families updated, and said her office is too slow to take up cases brought by police.
In addition to the lawsuit, a Republican-led bill in the statehouse would give the governor authority to appoint a special prosecutor to take on violent crimes in jurisdictions with a homicide rate over a certain threshold — a measure drafted with St. Louis in mind.
Gardner, the city's first Black circuit attorney, told the crowd at West Side Missionary Baptist Church that Bailey and other Republican critics have “made it about race. I didn't make it about race. All these white males attacking a Black circuit attorney. So you tell me who's talking about race?”
Bailey, in a statement, said Gardner is the one “injecting race and politics into a legal proceeding” and noted that many Democrats in St. Louis have raised concerns about Gardner's performance.
“This isn’t just me saying this,” Bailey said. "I’m speaking on behalf of the people of the state of Missouri, but her own constituents and elected officials within her jurisdiction have also called for her to resign. So the claim that this is politically or racially motivated is ridiculous.”
Gardner, 47, was elected in 2016 and reelected in 2020. She is among several progressive Democratic prosecutors across the country who have taken steps such as ending prosecution of low-level marijuana crimes and seeking mental health treatment over incarceration for non-violent criminals.
She has often clashed with police, most notably in 2018 when she announced an “exclusion list” of more than two dozen police officers who were barred from serving as primary witnesses in criminal cases due to what Gardner characterized as credibility concerns.
Criticism of Gardner escalated last month after 17-year-old Janae Edmondson, a volleyball standout from Tennessee, was struck by a speeding car following a tournament game in downtown St. Louis. The 21-year-old driver was out on bond on a robbery charge despite nearly 100 bond violations that included letting his GPS monitor die and breaking terms of his house arrest, according to court records.
Some questioned why Riley was allowed to remain free despite so many bond violations.
Gardner gained national attention in 2018 when she charged then-Gov. Eric Greitens with felony invasion of privacy, accusing him of taking a compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair. The charge was eventually dropped. But Greitens, a Republican who was also under investigation by Missouri lawmakers, resigned in June 2018.
The case drew scrutiny that led to the conviction of Gardner’s investigator. Gardner received a written reprimand for failing to produce documents and mistakenly maintaining that all documents had been provided to Greitens’ lawyers.