Only a month after announcing she would not be running for re-election due to ongoing racial intimidation, Ruqaiyah “Kiah” Morris, the only black woman in the Vermont House of Representatives, announced her immediate resignation on Tuesday.
In the short but sweet Facebook post, Morris explained that she originally planned to complete her term, which ran through 2019, but deferred to family matters, in addition to citing “continued harassment,” which she charges local police have not been responsive to.
“My husband is beginning the long physical journey of recovery following extensive open-heart surgery. We face continued harassment and seek legal remedies to the harm endured,” she wrote. “I step away now to focus on caring for and supporting my family during this time of transition and ensure our health, safety and well-being are prioritized.”
The New York Times notes that Morris, a Democrat, was elected to represent the town of Bennington in 2014 and is the second African-American woman to serve in the State Legislature in Vermont’s history. As it now stands, there are only four remaining people of color—two men and two women—in the 180-member body.
Morris outlined some of the specifics of the attacks to the Times, saying they came in “waves,” and that she had been vandalized inside of her home. “We found there were swastikas painted on the trees in the woods near where we live. We had home invasions,” she said.
The Vermont Attorney General’s office is currently investigating the threats.
The 42-year-old also said that the low pay for legislators—$13,000 a year for half a year’s exhaustive effort, makes it difficult for those not privileged to enter state politics.
“To serve in this state requires sacrifice, literally even financial sacrifice,” she said. “It is a system set up for the wealthy and the retired.”
Adding insult to injury, the Times also reports that Morris and her lawyer, Robert Appel, accused the Bennington Police Department of failing to appropriately respond to her concerns—which she has raised since 2016. Paul Doucette, the chief of the Bennington Police Department, said he was not able to comment on the case, adding that he did not think the department had “done anything wrong,” according to the Times.
“It is not that I see myself as somehow better than any other individual on planet Earth, for real,” she said. “But to know that as an elected official and as a person of prominence that I couldn’t even find the protection and the justice that my family deserves so that we can have a sense of peace — that we weren’t able to access that, that the system was not there in the ways that we needed — that is stunning.”