TAMPA — Florida’s chief legal officer is supporting Mike Perotti, the man who wants to unseat Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.
Attorney General Ashley Moody endorsed Perotti’s candidacy Wednesday.
“Mike Perotti has spent his life in service to the law and the safety and security of our community,” Moody said in a statement released by Perotti’s campaign. “Now more than ever we need leaders like Mike who will enforce the rule of law, bring accountability and transparency to our criminal justice system, and relentlessly seek out justice for victims and their families.”
Moody and Perotti are both Republicans. Warren is a Democrat.
But Moody’s support of the challenger over the incumbent in the local race is notable given her Hillsborough County roots.
Before she became attorney general in 2018, Moody was a circuit judge in Tampa, presiding over criminal cases. Her father is a local federal judge and her brother is a Hillsborough county judge.
In a statement, Perotti said he was honored to have the attorney general’s support.
Perotti, 48, is a staff attorney and former colonel with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He began his career as an assistant state attorney.
The endorsement could give him some momentum. He announced his candidacy shortly before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and has since trailed Warren in fundraising.
Warren, 43, has also largely overshadowed his challenger’s candidacy by making frequent appearances at local press events and drumming up media attention to his office’s various initiatives.
“It’s not surprising that a pro-Trump elected Republican is endorsing a pro-Trump Republican candidate,” Warren said in a statement.
Warren ousted longtime State Attorney Mark Ober in 2016 in what was widely viewed as a surprise win.
A former federal prosecutor, Warren has since championed various reforms, including the expansion of civil citations for minor crimes, the creation of a conviction review unit to root out wrongful convictions, and the reduced prosecutions for people accused of driving with suspended licenses.
But he has also walked a line between mercy and accountability.
Most recently, he made news when his office declined to prosecute 67 people arrested for unlawful assembly during a downtown Tampa protest. The demonstration was part of nationwide protests that have followed the death of George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police. Days later, Warren announced felony charges against a different group, accusing them in the riots and looting of stores in north Tampa.
Perotti has been critical of some of Warren’s policies.
At a recent forum in Ruskin, he spoke of not letting repeat violent criminals return to the community. He also noted a recent surge in violent crime in Tampa’s inner city.
“Everything that is well-intended cannot be at the expense of the safety of the community,” he said.