In Hillsborough County, Florida, State Attorney Andrew Warren vowed not to prosecute either women seeking abortions or providers of gender-affirmative care for transgender youth — and far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responded by suspending him. DeSantis, on August 4, declared, “We are not going to allow this pathogen that’s been around the country of ignoring the law. We are not going to let that get a foothold here in the state of Florida.”
Warren discusses that suspension in an op-ed published by the Washington Post on August 12. In Hillsborough County, that state attorney position is an elected one; Warren, a Democrat, was elected in 2016 and reelected in 2020 — and Warren, in his op-ed, slams DeSantis as heavy-handed and authoritarian.
“For nearly four years,” Warren writes, “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pursued an approach to governing that has violated the freedoms of people in our state, inventing whatever enemies would help him in his ambition to be the next Donald Trump. Without warning, last week, he added me to his list. An armed sheriff’s deputy and a governor’s aide showed up on Thursday morning at the State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, where I was serving as the elected prosecutor for Hillsborough County. They handed me an executive order signed by DeSantis that immediately suspended me from office. Before I could read it, they escorted me out.”
Warren continues, “This is a blatant abuse of power. I don’t work for DeSantis. I was elected by voters — twice — and I have spent my entire career locking up violent criminals and fraudsters. Without any misdoing on my part or any advance notice, I was forced out of my office, removed from my elected position, and replaced with a DeSantis ally. If this can happen to me, what can DeSantis do to other Floridians?”
When critics of former President Donald Trump describe DeSantis as one of his “MAGA disciples,” it isn’t meant in a good way; the point of that description is that DeSantis, according to critics, is emulating Trump by pushing a similarly authoritarian agenda. And Warren, in his op-ed, lays out some examples of what he sees as DeSantis throwing his weight around.
“Already, the governor has summarily stripped away constitutional rights for millions of people in our state: Black Floridians, who will find it harder to vote because of a DeSantis law that creates unnecessary restrictions targeting election fraud that does not exist,” Warren explains. “Women, who stand to lose their right to make their own reproductive health choices because of a DeSantis law — which a judge has ruled unconstitutional under state law — severely limiting access to abortion without even exceptions for rape and incest. The LGBTQ community, targeted by the DeSantis ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law that prevents educators from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with students.”
Warren adds, “The DeSantis enemies list goes on and on. Teachers, accused of putting ‘incredibly disturbing’ books on their shelves. College faculty, who are directed by a DeSantis law to complete a survey about their political beliefs. Even Disney World, which lost its special taxing district in Central Florida after it criticized the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. So, I stand in good company, and the stakes are high.”
In his op-ed, Warren vows to “fight this suspension in the courts.”
“The governor cites statements I signed with other prosecutors from around the country regarding gender-affirming care and restrictions on abortion rights, two of his political wedge issues,” Warren notes. “These are value statements, where I expressed my opposition to laws that I believe violate constitutional rights. Florida’s current 15-week abortion ban was found to violate the Florida Constitution by the first court to review it. And Florida has no criminal law at all regarding medical treatments of gender-affirming care…. By attacking me, DeSantis is overruling the will of the voters who have twice elected me.”
Warren adds, “He is selectively ignoring the discretion prosecutors have — and are ethically required to exercise — in setting priorities and deciding who to prosecute for which crimes. And he is violating my right of free speech to call attention to public policies that take away our freedoms.”
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Author: Alex Henderson