Andrew Warren, the Hillsborough County state attorney suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, filed paperwork this week to run to get the job back in 2024.
That could mark the beginning of what’s been widely speculated to be a contentious race between Democrat Warren and the Hillsborough judge DeSantis appointed to replace him, Republican Susan Lopez.
But a spokesperson for Warren said that Warren opening a campaign account Monday was not an announcement.
Filing that paperwork “allows him to stay in legal compliance with state law and keep multiple options on the table as he determines his next steps,” longtime Warren adviser Maya Brown said via email. “With the national politics and statewide scrutiny the governor has injected into this local race, we’re being very methodical to show we’re following the law.”
“Once Andrew arrives at a decision, we will definitely let everyone know,” she said.
But as of Tuesday afternoon, both Lopez and Warren were listed as state attorney candidates on the state Division of Elections website.
Elected twice as Hillsborough’s top prosecutor, Warren was escorted from his office by a sheriff’s deputy in August 2022. DeSantis accused him of refusing to follow the law in certain cases. Warren called his ouster political theater by a governor running for president.
DeSantis then put Lopez, whom he had previously appointed to a judgeship, in the state attorney’s seat.
Since then, Warren has fought unsuccessfully in the courts to be restored to office. An appeal is pending at the 11th Circuit.
Warren’s national-news ouster and his ongoing battle to get his job back have made for some unusual moments at local political events, with both Lopez and Warren showing up.
This summer, Lopez announced she would run for state attorney in 2024.
In response to an inquiry from the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday about a Warren candidacy, a campaign spokesperson for Lopez issued a statement:
“Andrew Warren left Hillsborough families less safe … partnerships with law enforcement were broken, crime victims’ families were ignored, and he put politics over public safety,” said Ryan Smith. “Andrew Warren failed Hillsborough families before. We won’t let him do it again.”
Lopez, he said, “has restored trust with law enforcement, ensured the families of crime victims are supported, and put more criminals behind bars.”
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Warren pushed back in his own statement: “My record on safety is indisputable — crime went down 30% in Hillsborough in five years, making it the safest large county in Florida — and the pretend state attorney telling lies doesn’t change that.”
He called Lopez “a joke — an illegal political appointee installed in a job she didn’t earn and isn’t qualified for” and accused her of “groveling at the governor’s feet.”
“Hillsborough is less safe and our system is moving backwards,” he said.
In August, DeSantis suspended another top Florida prosecutor, Monique Worrell, who was the elected state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties.