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Appointed by DeSantis, Suzy Lopez to run for Hillsborough state attorney

She got the job last year with the ouster of Andrew Warren and plans to run in 2024. Warren might, too.
 
Hillsborough State Attorney Susan Lopez.
Hillsborough State Attorney Susan Lopez. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published July 5, 2023|Updated July 5, 2023

Suzy Lopez, the judge appointed by Ron DeSantis to be Hillsborough County state attorney when the governor ousted Andrew Warren, is officially running for the job next year.

“The community needs to know that their state attorney is only interested in finding justice and making certain those guilty of committing crimes pay their debt to our community,” Lopez said in a news release Wednesday. “Victims of crime know Hillsborough County is safer today than it used to be in just under one year.”

That was a pointed poke at Warren, the twice-elected state attorney who was removed from office last August after DeSantis accused him of refusing to enforce certain laws.

Warren, who called his ouster a political stunt by a governor running for president, has gone to the courts to try to get his job back. But a federal judge said he did not have the authority to restore Warren, and the Florida Supreme Court recently dismissed his lawsuit, citing an “unreasonable delay” in filing the challenge.

Regarding Lopez’s comments Wednesday, Warren said in an emailed response to the Tampa Bay Times: “We have had tremendous success making our community safer and our system better.”

Warren also said he was confident the community “doesn’t want to go backwards” and pointed to Lopez rolling back his policies on not prosecuting arrests that resulted from a police officer stopping a bicyclist — known locally as biking while Black.

Lopez responded that she’s been busy post-Warren rebuilding “shattered” trust with the community.

If those sound like fighting words between candidates, they could well be.

While Warren said his focus remains on fighting his suspension “to protect democracy across Florida,” he also said this:

“Depending on what happens, there’s always the option of going back to the people of Hillsborough to seek reelection for a third term.”

Andrew Warren at a press conference following a judge's ruling in his bid to get his job back.
Andrew Warren at a press conference following a judge's ruling in his bid to get his job back. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

Biking while black was one of the issues brought up by DeSantis, who also pointed to pledges Warren signed against prosecuting abortion or transgender health care cases. Warren denied he had blanket policies against prosecuting certain violations — including specific non-violent misdemeanors — and said his prosecutors were able to apply their discretion.

A campaign will give voters a closer glimpse of Lopez, who has referred to herself as “a prosecutor, not a politician.” Born and raised in Tampa, she attended Plant High and Middlebury College, where she was on the women’s rugby and crew teams. She also studied abroad in Australia and Barcelona.

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Lopez became a Tampa prosecutor in 2005 and was appointed by DeSantis to the county court bench in late 2021. That prompted her to name her dog Rhonda Santis, Lopez told the Times in an interview last year.

Being tapped as Warren’s replacement made her the county’s first woman state attorney.

The Hillsborough state attorney oversees about 300 prosecutors and staff handling about 50,000 cases a year.