Changing course, Florida prosecutor suspended by DeSantis to seek reelection

Changing course, a Democratic Florida prosecutor suspended from office by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he will seek reelection while a court battle continues over his 2022 removal from the post.

Andrew Warren had said in January he would not run this year. But that was before a federal appeals court ruled that a lower court should consider Warren's argument that statements he made about hot-button issues such as abortion were political advocacy protected by the First Amendment. That case remains pending.

DeSantis cited those statements in suspending Warren, contending he was improperly refusing to uphold and enforce certain laws. The governor appointed Republican Suzy Lopez to replace Warren, and she is running for the position that prosecutes cases in Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County.

In his announcement in a video posted on social media, Warren said the governor “illegally forced me from office” and that he decided to seek a third term even as a judge in Tallahassee considers whether to order his reinstatement later this year. Qualifying for the election ends next week.

“I'm running to protect our values, for a woman's right to choose, for a fair and just system and — above all — for freedom and democracy,” Warren said in a statement. “I'm running to do what's right.”

The governor's office said after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court ruling in favor of Warren that it sets a “dangerous precedent” that could permit politically motivated prosecutors to ignore laws they oppose.

The appeal will eventually go before U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who previously ruled that Warren's statements were protected by the First Amendment but that he lacked authority to reinstate the prosecutor. The appeals court said Hinkle does have that authority.

Warren’s suspension was the first one made by the Republican governor involving Democratic elected state attorneys. Last year, DeSantis suspended Monique Worrell, who was the state attorney for the Orlando area. Worrell is challenging the decision before the Florida Supreme Court.

Curt Anderson, The Associated Press