JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After weeks of drama that put St. Louis in the national spotlight, Gabe Gore will be sworn on Tuesday as the city’s new top prosecutor.
Governor Mike Parson’s legal counsel Evan Rodriguez has been serving as interim circuit attorney since Kim Gardner abruptly resigned last week, discovering 4,800 warrant applications that have not been reviewed.
In an exclusive interview with our Missouri Chief Capitol Bureau Reporter Emily Manley, Parson said he tried to reach out to Gardner after she announced her resignation, but said he never heard back.
“I don’t know if I was expecting her too, it would have been nice to have a conversation to say, ‘How do we move forward to help the people of St. Louis, but that didn’t occur,'” Parson said.
With a backlog of thousands of cases, Gabe Gore will have his hands full. Gore lives and works, and has raised his family in St. Louis, all reasons why Parson said he appointed the former federal prosecutor and current partner at the law firm Dowd Bennett.
“I’ll be honest, if I haven’t sat at home wondering why he is doing this,” Parson said Thursday. “I mean, here is a guy that is tremendously successful, doesn’t have to do this by no means, that had some merit to me, and I think the reason he did it is because he cares about St. Louis.”
Gore has more than 23 years experience in private law practice and is described as an “experienced trail lawyer who concentrates on complex civil litigation and white-collar defense,” according to the law firm’s website. He said his top priorities will be building a staff of qualified attorneys and professionals, plus building strong relationships between the St. Louis community, his office, and other regional and state officials.
After 18 candidates, including five judges, applied for the job, Parson said he narrowed it down to three finalists, saying it was a tough decision.
“To myself, I kept thinking in the back of my mind, who is capable of doing that, because you’re not going to have the resources you need, you’re not going to have the manpower you need to run the office, and you’re going to have to go in from day one more on a management scale just getting things in order, plus you have to prosecute cases, plus you have cases coming in every night,” Parson said.
The governor said his office was not warned when Gardner resigned last Tuesday, but having 20 years of experience in law enforcement helped him make a decision.
“When the resignation came fairly rapidly, with no notice, two weeks earlier, that made a lot of moving parts and (I) had to select someone a little quicker than we wanted to,” Parson said. “Being in law enforcement helps, because you kind of have an idea of what a prosecutor does because you worked with them hand-in-hand a lot.”
The governor said Gore was not a political pick, but someone he believes can pick up the pieces.
“I can tell you, there is at least 1,000 cases that I know of that are Class A and Class B felons,” Parson said. “By all means, that has to be a priority when you first go in there, because if you can take those people off the streets in St. Louis, you will make a difference in crime.”
Parson said he would support Gore if he decided to run for office in next year’s election.
“I would be the first to support him if he decides to go that route, but that wasn’t part of the decision process,” Parson said. “That conversation took place, but that’s going to be up to Gabe and his wife and his family to decide. I’m going to tell you how the circuit attorney in St. Louis will get reelected – by doing a good job.”
But first, the main priority Parson said is giving justice to victims, going through current dockets and trials, so cases aren’t dismissed and checking on cases with the highest severity, deadlines, motions, discovery or other urgent matters.
“St. Louis is too good of a community, it is a great city, it is a major hub of our state,” Parson said. “We’ve got to do something besides talk about violent crime in St. Louis, and this is the first step in trying to reel that in, and I think he will.”
The governor’s office said that any victim wondering about the status of their case is encouraged to call the office at 314-622-4373.
Before working at Dowd Bennet, Gore also served as a member of the Office of Special Counsel John C. Danforth’s Waco investigation from 1999 to 2000. He also has experience as an assistant U.S. Attorney, where we tried federal prosecutions through a drug task force. He also served as a clerk for the U.S. Couty of Appeals.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Missouri State University in 1991, where he was a track and cross-country athlete for several years. He later earned his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was once taught by the future president, Barack Obama.
Once Gore is sworn in Tuesday, Parson said Rodriguez will resign.
In her resignation letter to the governor, Gardner said her “most powerful weapon to fight back against the outsiders stealing your voices and your rights is to step back.” The note went on to say that serving the people of the City of St. Louis is still her north star.