Black women state’s attorneys are being forced out

Two progressive Black women state’s attorneys in St. Louis and Chicago have either thrown in the towel or have been forced to retire early.

Kimberly M. Gardner, 48, is the circuit attorney for the city of St. LouisMissouri, until she resigned early Thursday. She will remain in office until June 1, although Republicans are attempting to push her out early. 

Kimberly M. Foxx, who is currently serving as the State’s Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, recently announced that she would not seek re-election.

She manages the second-largest prosecutor’s office in the United States, an office consisting of approximately 700 attorneys and 1,100 employees.

In 2016, Foxx won the Democratic nomination for State’s Attorney against incumbent Anita Alvarez and went on to win the general election. She was re-elected in 2020

Voters in St. Louis elected Gardner to office as part of a movement to transform public safety, issues that ignited after the Ferguson uprising in 2014. She ran on a platform to fight for police accountability and to reform the “arrest and incarcerate” model of criminal justice through diversion programs and supportive mental health services.

But this approach has sparked nothing but trouble. 

Her critics, including Republicans and moderate Democrats, cite her downfall as a failure of her reform agenda. Gardner instead places blame on St. Louis judges, police, and others who resisted her policy goals.

Gardner wrote in her resignation letter that she’s experienced attacks on these reforms since her first day in office. 

Since she took office, Republicans in the Missouri state legislature pushed to pass a bill stripping her office of power.

Missouri Republicans ramped up efforts this week to advance the bill, which would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in any jurisdiction to handle cases said to include a “threat to public safety.”

Dozens of similar preemption bills filed in recent years target reform-minded prosecutors across the country. At least 17 states have tried to pass similar measures since 2017, soon after reform prosecutors started winning elections.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, 51, announced Tuesday she won’t be running for re-election next year. 

“I am announcing today that, at the conclusion of my term in November of 2024, I will be stepping down as State’s Attorney. I will not be on next year’s ballot by my choice,” Foxx said during a City Club of Chicago luncheon. “I leave now with my head held high, with my heart full, knowing that better days are ahead.” 

Foxx announced her decision after delivering a passionate defense of her more than six years in office, following near-constant attacks from critics who have blamed her for a spike in crime in Chicago and Cook County in recent years.