For the first time in years, I will walk into a courthouse Monday not as a prosecutor working to keep our community safe. Instead, I will be trying to get back to doing the important work Hillsborough County voters twice elected me to do as state attorney.
Since Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended me without warning or legitimate cause last month and I was escorted out of the State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, I have been fighting to return to work serving all the people of Hillsborough County. The governor is trying to take away my job for doing my job, and he is abusing his authority as he attempts to overturn the will of the voters.
It will be strange to stand in federal court in Tallahassee as plaintiff, not prosecutor. After growing up in Gainesville, I cut my teeth prosecuting street crime in Washington, D.C. For years, I had the privilege of representing the United States, prosecuting major fraud cases all over the country.
After returning to Florida, I chose to run for state attorney because I saw ways to improve our criminal justice system in Hillsborough County and around the state. We have focused on going after the most serious offenders—the violent criminals and repeat offenders who keep me awake at night as a father of two little girls. We also have found innovative ways to invest in safety through rehabilitation and prevention programs, which reduce crime in the long run.
I was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020 because the people of Hillsborough County share my vision for criminal justice, trust my judgment and have seen our success. Hillsborough’s crime rate is the lowest in the Tampa Bay region. I swore to uphold the Constitution, and that’s exactly what I have done. DeSantis has not cited a single specific example of me violating that oath. He can’t point to any because they don’t exist.
The encouragement I’ve received over the past six weeks has been gratifying. Hundreds have reached out to offer support. They come from across the political spectrum. Some tell me they did not vote for me but recognize this suspension is wrong. Many apologize and say they can’t say anything publicly because they fear angering the governor. I understand.
If DeSantis can arbitrarily suspend an elected official without one shred of evidence they have done anything wrong, how far will he go to punish anyone else who disagrees with him? This abuse of power should shock every business owner, teacher, doctor, public servant — and every voter.
The governor has argued to the court that he can suspend me because I’m his employee. However, both the governor and the state attorney are independently elected offices enshrined in the Florida Constitution. As state attorney, I do not work for the governor. I work for the people of Hillsborough County. I am accountable to them and under no legal obligation to follow the governor’s views about criminal justice.
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This fight is so much bigger than me. This is about the fate of democracy in our state. This is about making sure no governor — Republican, Democrat or independent — can trample over constitutional rights and the will of voters.
If Hillsborough voters don’t like the job I’m doing, the remedy is clear: The voters can elect someone else.
We will be arguing in court that the governor abused his limited suspension authority and violated my First Amendment right to free speech. I will keep fighting this indefensible suspension so I can get back to work keeping our community safe and delivering on the promises I made to my actual bosses—the people of Hillsborough County.
Andrew Warren was elected as Hillsborough state attorney in 2016 and re-elected in 2020.