By Belen Avelar
ROBSTOWN, TX – Republican state governments are trying to take control of Democratic-run cities and counties in an effort to gain more control over their decisions and decision-makers, including progressive prosecutors, according to Ronald Brownstein, a political analyst with CNN.
Republicans are not only seeking control of Democratic cities and counties, but they also want to “seize authority over law enforcement in blue cities and are drawing energy from the convergence of two powerful trends,” added Brownstein.
As reported by CNN, “states such as Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and Missouri, an array of red states are taking aggressive new steps to seize authority over local prosecutors, city policing policies, or both.”
As a result of seizing control over the authority of local prosecutors, as described by CNN, the Republicans’ changes could range from “Georgia legislation to establish a new statewide commission to discipline or remove local prosecutors, a Texas bill to allow the state to take control of prosecuting election fraud cases then leading to the dismissal of elected county prosecutors from office and a Mississippi bill that would allow a state takeover of policing in the capital city of Jackson.”
In a leading civil rights group, Janai Nelson, the president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund, expressed her concern, noting that “if left unchecked, local jurisdictions in states with conservative legislatures whose political majority does not match their own may find themselves subject to commandeering on an unprecedented scale.”
In addition, when it comes down to red states trying to remove local district attorneys, there is a racial connection between prosecutors elected from large cities and those who Republicans elect who are primarily white, according to CNN reporting.
For example, Brownstein pointed out that “in many instances, state-level Republicans elected primarily with the support of White, non-urban voters are looking to seize power from or remove from office, Black or Hispanic local officials elected by largely non-White urban and suburban voters.”
Gerald Griggs, a criminal defense attorney and president of the NAACP in Georgia, said “there’s a strong hint of discrimination because most of the prosecutors they are coming after are black women, or [other] people of color who don’t line up with hard-core lock ‘em up philosophy.”
The senior CNN political analyst said Red States have a tendency to “demand and control when looking at minimum wage and family leave laws to environmental regulations, mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic and recycling policies for plastic bags.”
Moreover, Brownstein said the political struggle for criminal justice reform started when the whole nation was going through the devastating murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the long-lasting protests to stop Police use of excessive force.
CNN highlighted how “the state moves to preempt local prosecutorial authority has directly followed the increased electoral success of so-called ‘progressive prosecutors’ committed to reducing incarceration rates, confronting racial inequities in the criminal justice system and more aggressively prosecuting police misconduct.”
Nicholas Turner, president of the Vera Institute of Justice, stated, “there are between 50-60 prosecutors considered part of the movement – including in major jurisdictions such as Manhattan, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia – with jurisdiction over populations equaling about one-fifth of the US total.”
“Efforts to supersede local control of law enforcement decisions in Democratic-leaning cities and countries are proliferating in red states this year,” added Brownstein.
The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature, according to CNN, admitted it is “considering seven different proposals to override or ease the removal of local prosecutors.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a conservative Republican, stated last week, said CNN, that “one of his priority bills for the current legislative session would allow the state to remove any local prosecutor who prohibits or materially limits the enforcement of any criminal offense.”
The GOP leader added that “another bill would allow the state attorney general to appoint district attorneys from neighboring countries to prosecute cases of alleged election fraud if the local DA will not.”
In Missouri, as reported by CNN, “the state House of Representatives approved legislation regarding the authority for prosecuting violent crimes from elected local prosecutors to a special prosecutor appointed by the governor once a country’s crime rate crosses a certain level.”
Monique Worrell, an elected Democratic state attorney in Orange County, centered on Orlando, is under investigation by Gov. DeSantis’s office, which said, “Monique mishandled a case of a 19-year-old man who was recently arrested for shooting three people in the city.”
According to Richard Briffault, “taken together, these initiatives constitute an unprecedented challenge to the independence of local prosecutors,” adding, “this is a straightforward attack on a system we’ve had in place for hundreds of years: local elections of local prosecutors.”
Consequently, “local prosecutors are mostly targeted by White individuals, such as Krasner (Philly DA) and Warren,” as noted by CNN.
In addition, according to Brownstein, “in most cases, these efforts target Black local officials in heavily minority jurisdictions, including the mayors of St. Louis and Jackson; the attorneys in the countries centered on Atlanta, Orlando, and St. Louis are all Black women.”
In testimony before the state legislative committee, Willi commented on his opinion about the Georgia bill, stating, “I’m tired, and I’m just going to call it how I see it; quite frankly, I think the legislation is racist. I don’t know what other thing to call it.”
“With the demands of red states trying to take over control of how blue states operate, it has created few areas of governmental authority that now appear beyond the reach of preemption demands,” stated CNN’s Brownstein.
The CNN report noted “with the constant battle over the Washington, DC, criminal code reform and the Republicans wanting to take the initiative in debates over crime and Democrats are divided and ambivalent about how to respond…more Republican-controlled states will push to remove more authority over law enforcement and criminal justice decisions from big blue jurisdictions, most of them with large non-White populations.”