TAMPA, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis went on the offensive Thursday, attacking a Hillsborough County state attorney who he accused of taking a "non-prosecutorial stance" over abortion law.
Flanked by Attorney General Ashley Moody, DeSantis announced he was suspending 13th Circuit prosecutor Andrew Warren over comments made indicating he would not press charges against those who seek, facilitate or provide abortion care.
Warren was one of several prosecutors across the country who signed a letter pledging to "stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions."
Moody said Warren's stance was tantamount to insubordination and unwillingness to enforce state law.
"When prosecutors aren't meeting the demands of their role, [the governor] has no other choice but to step in," she said.
Former Tampa police chief Brian Dugan called Warren "a fraud" to a chorus of laughter from the seated audience.
"He has misled the people of this county. The governor should not have had to come to Hillsborough County to clean up our mess," Dugan said.
DeSantis named Susan Lopez the interim state attorney.
“State Attorneys have a duty to prosecute crimes as defined in Florida law, not to pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal agenda,” he said. “It is my duty to hold Florida’s elected officials to the highest standards for the people of Florida.
"I have the utmost trust that Judge Susan Lopez will lead the office through this transition."
"I will follow the rule of law," Lopez said to the crowd.
In response to the governor's announcement, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book issued the following statement:
With his removal of a duly elected Democratic State Attorney who refused to enforce Florida's extreme abortion ban, Ron DeSantis is behaving more like a dictator than 'America's Governor.' Ron DeSantis continues to make it shamefully clear that he will always put partisan politics over the democratic will of the people.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried called Thursday's move "a politically motivated attack on a universally respected State Attorney." She and fellow candidate Charlie Frist in simultaneous statements called DeSantis "a wannabe dictator."