ST. LOUIS – With the announcement that Rep. Kim Gardner, D-St. Louis, will not seek re-election to the House to instead run for St. Louis circuit attorney, one candidate has already stated his intention to fill that seat.
Steve Roberts Jr., the son of St. Louis real estate and business mogul Steve Roberts, most recently worked as an assistant circuit attorney in St. Louis, and now he wants to get involved in politics.
“I’ve learned that the way to effect change is through policy,” he says.
Although his law career has been short thus far, Roberts, a St. Louis native, has experience in different aspects of law. During his time at Pepperdine University’s Law School, he served as legal research coordinator for the Counsel to Secure Justice in New Delhi, India. After he graduated in 2013, he moved to California to work as in-house counsel for AP Wireless Infrastructure Partners, LLC, and he then took a massive pay cut to come back to St. Louis and work in the circuit attorney’s office.
Then, his career ran into a touch of trouble. In October, Roberts was fired after he announced his intentions to run for circuit attorney. While current Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office said he was fired for performance issues, Roberts’ campaign co-chair denied any such allegations.
Now, he works on his campaign full-time, and he wants to use his experiences within the legal system to work towards criminal justice reform.
“When I was a prosecutor, I had a defendant who just broke down crying,” Roberts says. “He said, ‘I don’t know how to read, I’ve got a 10-year-old son, I can’t even fill out a job application…’ When you’ve got people that don’t have anywhere to turn, there’s no other path for them, crime is a way to make a living.”
Instead, he wants to focus on measures that rehabilitate criminals and make it easier for them to integrate back into society, like supporting the increasingly popular “Ban the Box” measure, which would forbid employers from asking whether or not an applicant is a felon.
“It shouldn’t be that you’re young, you did something stupid and you’ve ruined the rest of your life,” he says, adding that other steps toward reducing crime all come from reducing poverty or at least providing services so people do not see a life of crime as the only or preferred alternative. “You have to have people that are educated, can have good jobs, and have a nice home.”
The 77th District also presents a challenge for newer politicians, given its odd U-shape which encompasses areas of both high and low wealth and all different races and creeds. Despite being a young candidate, Roberts notes that he has been spending time since he returned to the area to re-integrate into the diverse community.
“I’ve been going to different ward neighborhood meetings, speaking with individuals, meeting with as many people as I can, community leaders,” he says.
Mostly though, he seems eager to start a new career at the statehouse.
“I’m excited,” he says. “I couldn’t be happier to be back home in St. Louis, and I think the House is a great way to get started in politics here.”