TAMPA, Fla. — State Attorney Andrew Warren alleged political impulses for his suspension by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying, "I'll briefly address the governor's presidential campaign."
The suspended Democratic official made the remark at the start of a news conference Thursday afternoon before speaking on a "major development" in a 1980s cold case murder — one that his former office was spearheading and canceled.
But Warren spoke about the case in his own capacity before turning to address reporters on his suspension.
"I've been elected twice to serve as state attorney — and I've served as state attorney and I've done it well. Crime is down, we're protecting people's rights, we have fought so hard for public safety and fairness and justice," Warren said. "If the governor thinks he can do a better job, then he should run for state attorney, not president."
The latest available data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show that while crime in Hillsborough County dropped from 2019 to 2020, violent crime went up 85 percent. The state defines violent crimes as murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults.
Violent crime has been up nationwide, as well, according to FBI data.
DeSantis said he suspended Warren due to what he described as a "neglect of duty." An order released by the governor's office cited joint statements Warren issued on topics including transition-related health care for transgender youth, abortion rights and his instituting policies against prosecuting certain "criminal violations" as reasons for his suspension.
On the abortion issue, Warren joined prosecutors nationwide declining to go after people "who seek, provide, or support abortions" following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
DeSantis said Warren violated his oath of office and picked and chose the types of laws he enforced. Warren defended his action on abortion by swearing to protect the U.S. and Florida constitutions; a judge called Florida's 15-week abortion ban unconstitutional, but it remains in an appeal process.
"When you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty," DeSantis said.
Asked if he planned on challenging the suspension, Warren said he hadn't looked at the order yet, waking up today to do his job. He continued that he heard the order contains "conjecture and lies" — and charged it will be as unconstitutional as other DeSantis-backed initiatives, such as the abortion ban and the "anti-riot" law.
Warren's former office has received no cases DeSantis' order cited on abortion and transgender care which, in part, provided the grounds for his suspension, Warren said.
"The governor is trying to overthrow the results of a fair and free election, two of them actually," Warren said. "People need to understand: this isn't the governor trying to suspend one elected official, this is the governor trying to overthrow democracy in Hillsborough County."
DeSantis has repeatedly stated that he's not running for president and, instead, is focusing on being Florida's governor despite rumblings he may put up a challenge to Republican Party kingpin and former President Donald Trump. Numerous polls have shown Trump besting DeSantis in GOP voters' preference, though the governor has performed well or is showing signs of beating the former president.
10 Tampa Bay has reached out to the governor's office for a statement on Warren's news conference.
Later Thursday evening, nearly 100 people gathered outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse in support of Warren.
10 Tampa Bay's Hannah Dineen was on the scene where they were also reportedly advocating for abortion access and LGBTQ+ issues.