ST. LOUIS (AP) — Bruce Franks Jr., a Ferguson activist who became a prominent urban voice in Missouri’s largely conservative Legislature, is giving up his House seat, in part due to mental health struggles.
Franks was first elected in 2016 when he defeated veteran Democratic lawmaker Penny Hubbard, two years after he led protests in Ferguson after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. Franks was also a leader of 2017 protests in St. Louis after a white former police officer was acquitted of killing a black suspect.
Franks, a 34-year-old Democrat, announced his resignation Thursday, the next-to-last day of the session.
In a statement, Franks said his three years in the Legislature were “both incredibly rewarding, and unexpectedly depleting.”
“This past year has been marked by deep personal trauma, from the loss of my best friend and godson to gun violence to the strain that comes from trying to support a family on the salary of an elected official with no financial safety net,” Franks said. “I’ve fought many battles, but none greater than my ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression. This year, for the first time in my life, I decided to get help. After much reflection, I decided to prioritize my health and my family above my political ambition.”
He cited successes, including passage of a bill that declared youth violence a public health epidemic, and putting millions of dollars in the state budget for youth jobs. But he also raised concerns about the Republican-led Legislature, citing “little room for the kind of bipartisanship” necessary for meaningful change.
In January, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson began an investigation of a city jobs agency after KMOV-TV reported discrepancies in time sheets submitted by Franks, who did work there as a youth mentor. Franks has denied any wrongdoing and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his resignation was unrelated to the investigation.
Franks filed for bankruptcy in August.
It’s unclear how the vacancy will be filled. A message left Friday with a spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Parson was not immediately returned.