Rep. Steve Roberts has set his sights set on two things: campaigning for state Senate and focusing on criminal justice reform.
Roberts, an attorney who has served in the state House since 2017, is officially launching his Senate campaign this week in the 5th district to replace term-limited Sen. Jamilah Nasheed.
“It would be my continued honor and privilege to represent the residents of St. Louis,” Roberts, who represents HD 77, told The Missouri Times in an interview. “I really enjoy being an advocate for them and hope to continue to pass legislation that will make Missouri a better and safer place for everyone.”
One of Roberts’ main focuses — in the state legislature and from his work as an attorney — is criminal justice reform. He said reforming the system was a catalyst behind his decision to run for state representative a few years ago and believes he could “be more effective” with those issues in the Senate.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had things that go further and would be better in terms of criminal justice reform that have made it out of the House, but we’re stuck with versions that are dialed back [in the Senate]. I’m hoping in the Senate I can take some of these reform measures further and get them across the finish line,” Roberts, chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, said.
Specifically, Roberts pointed to reforms that would make it easier for convicted felons to find employment as well as changing the bail process for certain people accused of nonviolent crimes who haven’t yet been convicted. Individuals could be imprisoned while awaiting a trial with an unaffordable bail — thus jeopardizing employment or families — and take a plea deal just to be able to get back to their lives, even with a mark on his or her record.
“This could be someone who is completely innocent, and that’s not how our system is supposed to work,” Roberts said.
From his time in the House, Roberts is most proud of his efforts to forge relationships with those across the aisle and his ability to use his law background to make bills better for all Missourians. As a Democrat, Roberts noted he’s part of the “super minority” in the state legislature and stressed the importance of having “good relationships and working across party lines to get what we need accomplished.”
“My law degree is my greatest asset in my toolbox,” Roberts said, pointing to his ability to help someone better tailor legislation to fit the end goal or fix a bill that could have unintended consequences.
Roberts’ first fundraising event will be held Thursday evening at the offices of Restoration St. Louis. Suggested donation levels range from $50 to $2,600.
As for his potential predecessor, Roberts had nothing but praise for Nasheed, a fellow Democrat, especially when it comes to her efforts to push through changes to the expungement process in Missouri.
“I have some large footsteps I hope to follow,” Roberts said. “She’s done an exceptional job representing the district, and we both share a passion as far as criminal justice goes. I hope to carry the torch on some issues she’s worked on.”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.