Hillsborough County State Attorney candidates clash at heated political forum

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From left: Hillsborough County State Attorney Candidates Suzy Lopez (R), Elizabeth Martinez Strauss (D), Andrew Warren (D), Public Defender candidates Lisa Baker McLean (D), Rocky Brancato (D) at Tiger Bay Club // Chris Young 5/17/24

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Candidates for the Hillsborough County state attorney position faced off in a fiery discussion Friday during a political forum in Ybor City.

Suspended Hillsborough County state attorney, Democrat Andrew Warren, Current state attorney, Republican Suzy Lopez, and Democrat Elizabeth Martinez Strauss faced a large crowd at non-partisan political forum the Tampa Tiger Bay Club.

Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Warren in 2022 over claims that he refused to enforce certain laws. Lopez questioned Warren’s oath as state attorney to protect the constitution.

“In signing a pledge that he would not prosecute certain categories of crime, he may as well just take that oath and quite frankly just wipe a dog’s rear end with it, because that oath is what we are here to do.”

However, Warren criticized Lopez for her allegiance to Governor Ron DeSantis, and because she was not chosen by voters.

“She’s not one to follow the law, but instead she follows the governor. She’s followed the governor on his false talking points about my suspension, she’s followed the governor’s false talking points about the six week abortion ban saying that it doesn’t cover women patients when it clearly does.”

Meanwhile, Strauss had previously said that she would withdraw if Warren decided to run. She didn’t, and explained why at the forum.

“That’s okay that he changed his mind, but I can’t back out of the race just because he changed his mind when he could still be removed within 10 minutes of getting elected.”

In between attacks, candidates discussed topics including gun control and crime in the area.

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