Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made national headlines yet again.
DeSantis suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren on Thursday for pledging not to enforce the state’s new 15-week abortion ban. The Republican governor announced the suspension of at a news conference in the county’s sheriff’s office.
The Republican governor faced criticism for suspending elected official… but other executives, like President Joe Biden, have done the same thing to prosecutors of the opposite party.
In February 2021, Biden asked for the resignations of more than 50 federal prosecutors appointed by former President Donald Trump. Some of those prosecutors were even subject to confirmation by the Senate.
But DeSantis faced hysterical criticism by liberals and the media for his decision.
Warren, the attorney fired by DeSantis, responded by scaremongering about threats to our democracy, in a typical fashion for a Democrat.
“The governor is trying to overthrow the results of a fair and free election, two of them actually,” Warren said later Thursday at a news conference.
“People need to understand. This isn’t the governor trying to suspend one elected official. This is the governor trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County.”
Warren, a Democrat, was elected as state attorney by Hillsborough County voters in 2016 and in 2020. In a statement, Warren said that “the people have the right to elect their own leaders — not have them dictated by an aspiring presidential candidate who has shown time and again he feels accountable to no one.”
Warren added that no cases regarding violations of the state’s new abortion law have been brought to his office.
Other Democrat officials rushed to Warren’s defense.
Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Tampa Democrat and leader-designate of the Florida House Democratic Caucus, said Warren has been using his prosecutorial discretion appropriately.
“I’m not going to mince words: this is a shocking political attack on an elected official serving the people of Hillsborough County,” she said. “Andrew Warren is being removed because he assured our community that he will not be a foot soldier in Ron DeSantis’ extremist agenda.”
“When you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty, you have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties,” DeSantis said at the conference, to cheers from the audience.
One conservative on Twitter agreed. “Dereliction of duty is grounds for removal,” he said.
In Florida, we will not allow the pathogen of ignoring the law to get a foothold in our state.
You take an oath to uphold ALL of the laws of our state, not just the ones you like. Otherwise, find a new line of work.
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) August 5, 2022
Today’s political stunt is an illegal overreach that continues a dangerous pattern by Ron DeSantis of using his office to further his own political ambition. It spits in the face of the voters of Hillsborough County who have twice elected me to serve *them*, not Ron DeSantis… pic.twitter.com/RzPXksSSWa
— Andrew Warren (@AndrewWarrenFL) August 4, 2022
The suspension comes as DeSantis runs for reelection in Florida and builds his national profile as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate despite near-constant criticism by the media of his policies on abortion, policing and other current issues.
In an executive order formally suspending Warren, DeSantis focused heavily on Warren’s signing of statements where prosecutors from across the country said they won’t use their offices to pursue criminal cases against seekers or providers of abortion.
More than 90 district attorneys, state attorneys general and other elected prosecutors across the U.S. have signed the letter saying they don’t intend to prosecute people for seeking, providing or supporting abortions.
Some are in states with few or no restrictions on abortions. But others are in law enforcement in places where there are bans or deep restrictions – including the counties that include Birmingham, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi, along with several of Texas’ biggest cities. In some cases, there might not be much to enforce because many clinics have either stopped offering abortions or have closed entirely.
Besides the statements from prosecutors, city councils in places including Nashville, New Orleans and Boise, Idaho, have introduced or adopted measures telling law enforcement agencies to make abortion-related cases low priorities.
Florida’s new abortion restriction became effective July 1. It prohibits abortions after 15 weeks. By comparison, the nation of France generally prohibits abortions after 14 weeks.
Like France, Florida makes exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. Florida does not allow exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest, or human trafficking.
Violators could face up to five years in prison. Physicians and other medical professionals could lose their licenses and face administrative fines of $10,000 for each violation.
The executive order also accuses Warren of having a “flawed and lawless understanding of his duties as a state attorney” in his “presumptive non-enforcement for certain criminal violations, including trespassing at a business location, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication, and prostitution.”
“The governor’s suspension of State Attorney Warren is not political to me. It’s about law and order. It’s about ensuring our loved ones are safe. It’s about the victims and their voices,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister. He said Warren has been acting as a kind of “supreme authority by reducing charges, dropping cases and singlehandedly determining what crimes will be legal or illegal in our county.”
Asked whether he’s overriding the will of the voters by suspending their choice for prosecutor, DeSantis said Warren’s conduct has fallen “below the standard of the Florida Constitution” and that he’s neglected his duty to state law.
“I don’t think the 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,” the governor said.
DeSantis appointed Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez to serve in Warren’s place during his suspension.
“I have the utmost respect for our state laws and I understand the important role that the state attorney plays in ensuring the safety of our community and the enforcement of our laws,” Lopez said.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.