Andrew Warren won’t run for Hillsborough State Attorney in 2024

Hillsborough County's suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren
Andrew Warren on WMNF. Zoom screen capture, 20 Sept. 2022.

By Dara Kam ©2024 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — After the Florida Supreme Court and a federal judge rejected his attempts to get reinstated, suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren announced Monday he would not run for another term.

Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Warren on Aug. 4, 2022, accusing the twice-elected Democrat of “incompetence” and “neglect of duty.”

Warren’s announcement Monday in an email and video to supporters was a reversal from a pledge he had made after his suspension to run for a third term this year.

State Attorney Susan Lopez, a former county court judge who was appointed by DeSantis to take Warren’s place, is seeking election to the seat in November.

Warren’s message said that he decided not to enter the race “following an assessment that showed a high risk” that DeSantis “would simply repeat his illegal suspension of Warren” and replace him.

“And then we would be right back where we are today, with an illegal, unqualified political appointee installed in the job. I care about the State Attorney’s Office and this community too much to have that cloud of uncertainty hanging over us. I care too much to have that office remain leaderless — with an unlawful political puppet placed in a position she didn’t earn and isn’t qualified to hold,” Warren said.

“I have been planning to run for re-election since the day I was suspended. But the governor has made clear that he does not care about the will of the voters or our democracy, and that he is willing to break state and federal law to keep me from serving as state attorney,” Warren also said in the email.

Warren filed a federal lawsuit in 2022, arguing that the suspension was politically motivated and violated his speech rights.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in January 2023 ruled that the suspension violated the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, but the judge said he lacked the authority to reverse the governor’s action.

A panel of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals heard arguments in Warren’s appeal of Hinkle’s ruling in May, but has not issued a decision.

Warren in February also asked the Florida Supreme Court to reinstate him, arguing the governor “exceeded his powers” in the suspension.

But in a 6-1 ruling in June, justices said the Supreme Court has limited power to curb executive suspensions and that Warren waited too long to seek the court’s review.

After Warren was suspended, DeSantis in August also suspended Central Florida prosecutor Monique Worrell, saying in part that the state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties had policies that prevented or discouraged assistant prosecutors from seeking minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes and drug trafficking offenses.

Worrell, a Democrat who was elected in 2020, filed a lawsuit asking the Florida Supreme Court to reinstate her. The court heard arguments in the case last month but has not issued a ruling.

Warren’s message Monday blamed the courts for failing to intervene in his case.

“Despite a federal court ruling that the suspension in August 2021 was illegal and violated both the Florida and U.S. Constitutions, courts have so far refused to step in and deliver any consequences for DeSantis’ law-breaking publicity stunt,” he said.

Warren has repeatedly accused DeSantis of using the suspensions as a political weapon to score points among Republican voters during the governor’s campaign for the White House.

“Donald Trump said he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Ron DeSantis, trying to out-Trump Trump, shot democracy in the middle of our courthouse — and he’s gotten away with it,” Warren said.

Warren did not announce future plans, but Monday’s message said he would “continue to advocate for democracy in Florida and across the country.”

While DeSantis suspended Warren, the Florida Senate has the power to decide whether to reinstate him or remove him from office. The Senate has put the Warren issue on hold amid the legal battles.

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