JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday he is suspending Tampa’s “woke” State Attorney Andrew Warren for “refusing to enforce Florida law,” including abortion law, and for enacting soft-on-crime policies that have made the community less safe.
Referring to Florida’s new ban on abortion at 15 weeks, Mr. DeSantis said of the prosecutor, “It’s not for him to put himself above that and say that he is not going to enforce the laws.”
Mr. Warren, a progressive Democrat who won his seat in 2016 after campaigning on criminal justice reform, has acted increasingly at odds with Republican leaders in the state. He most recently announced he would not enforce any abortion restrictions in the wake of the June Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion at the federal level.
The governor said Mr. Warren was overstepping his authority.
“The constitution of Florida has vested the veto power in the governor, not individual state attorneys, and so when you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty,” the governor said at a press conference. “You have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties and so today, we are suspending state Attorney Andrew Warren effective immediately.”
Mr. DeSantis said he would replace Mr. Warren with Susan Lopez, a judge on the Hillsborough County Court.
A spokesperson for Mr. Warren did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On the State Attorney’s website for Hillsborough County, Mr. Warren had pledged to “make Hillsborough County safer while promoting justice and fairness for everyone,” including alternatives to prison time for first-time, non-violent and juvenile offenders.
While Mr. Warren was elected twice, Mr. DeSantis said he is legally authorized to suspend him under the state constitution.
“The conduct that he has done has fallen below the standard that’s required in the Florida constitution,” Mr. DeSantis said. “When you’re saying you’re not going to enforce certain laws you don’t like, that’s a neglect of duty that quite frankly, is incompetence as defined in Florida law. And Florida courts have been very clear that saying you’re just not going to enforce the law is by definition, a dereliction of duty.”
In a statement on Twitter, DeSantis spokeswoman Christine Pushaw described Mr. Warren as a progressive prosecutor “backed by [George] Soros,” a liberal megadonor who has pumped money into electing liberal prosecutors who will enact a progressive criminal justice agenda.
“They treat criminals with deference & victims with contempt,” Ms. Pushaw said. “This dereliction of duty is why crime is surging. But Governor Ron DeSantis won’t stand for this. He just suspended the one in Florida.”
Mr. DeSantis’ announcement comes amid growing discontent with progressive prosecutors who have softened their treatment of criminals in places now plagued by higher crime rates.
In June, San Francisco voters recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a liberal whose policies were blamed for rising crime, drugs and homelessness.
In Los Angeles, liberal District Attorney George Gascon is facing a recall after opponents collected more than 700,000 signatures to put the question on the November ballot.
Mr. Warren, like Mr. Gascon and Mr. Boudin, pledged to advance criminal justice reforms, rather than tough-on-crime policies.
He was elected after defeating Republican Mark Ober in 2016, pledging to reduce the number of juveniles charged as adults, cut the number of death penalty cases and create a new task force to overturn wrongful convictions.
In addition to rejecting the state’s abortion law, Mr. Warren also announced he would not enforce any ban on transgender treatments for children if the state legislature enacts them in the future.
Mr. DeSantis has decried transgender treatments for children, describing them as a form of child abuse.
“I don’t think that people of Hillsborough County want to have an agenda that is basically woke where you’re deciding that your view of social justice means certain laws shouldn’t be enforced,” Mr. DeSantis said. “I don’t think there’s very many people that believe that is consistent with the rule of law.”