ST. LOUIS – Brad Bakker, associate attorney at Armstrong Teasdale, has announced his candidacy for HD 84. As of writing, no other candidate has officially announced that they are running in the heavily Democratic district. Rep. Karla May currently represents HD 84 and faces term limits. She has run unopposed since 2014.
As an attorney, Bakker has focused his attention towards social justice work in his pro-bono practice, including working for the indigent with the Homeless Experience Legal Protection (HELP) clinic in Nashville, Tennessee. In the Volunteer State, he was also able to work for Judge William Haynes Jr., the first African-American federal judge in Middle Tennessee.
Bakker said he wanted to run because, “After the most recent election, seeing where you can make the biggest difference in society. I feel like we need serious changes in our political system to rectify the injustices and inequitable nature of our legal system. I realized that the state legislature was really a great place to do that.”
He felt that the biggest reason why he wanted to work in the General Assembly was so that he could implement policies that would disrupt what he saw as a broken criminal justice system that needlessly keeps people in jail, disproportionately targets poor black communities, and maintains such a cycle that prevents upward mobility.
“People are caught in Catch-22s in things and it’s difficult when you cannot afford to pay your fines so that you can get your license back,” he said. “If you can’t get your license back to get to your job to afford the money to pay the fines you owe. It’s a very vicious cycle of poverty that hits a lot of people.”
Should he be elected, Bakker wanted to implement a multi-pronged approach to fix some of the institutional problems that affect Missourians and members of his district. The first issue he wants to deal with is cash-bail reform, to prevent the accused from being in jail so long that they lose their job and cannot pay requisite court fees or to reimburse a public defender, which could bring them back to jail.
“One case I was working with was a gentleman who had an actual claim for innocence,” Bakker said. “All the evidence that had been used to convict him of murder had been debunked or repudiated. The Missouri Court of Appeals actually said, ‘his case for actual innocence is compelling,’ but because he was not on death row, they would not hear his claim. The Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear his case. That frustrates me.”
He would also want to advocate for economic development in inner-city areas of St. Louis. Specifically, he wants to have a state-backed micro-finance program that provides financial services to poor and low-income businesses that identify themselves as micro-finance institutions. He believes that such a policy would help bring business to under-invested sections of Missouri.
“People are responding to that; they want a different type of politics. Obviously, whether it’s national or state politics, it’s marred by a lot of acrimonious noise out there and people want vision,” Bakker said.
“People want to hear that it doesn’t have to be this way. That’s the big theme of my campaign, to move past cynical politics of our past where you hear, ‘well, that’s Missouri. That’s St. Louis. That’s the way it’s always been.’ It doesn’t have to be that way. We can change it.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Armstrong Teasdale
Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer