From Disney to Andrew Warren, DeSantis shows a taste for power — and combat

Tampa – Governor Ron DeSantis denounced those he called rogue prosecutors – While Andrew Warren sat with his stone face.

in february time Speech delivered to a Crowding a luncheon at the Florida State Fair in Tampa, the governor’s remarks were merely recycled talking points directed at officials in other states. DeSantis compared how he said the “Free State of Florida” had more respect for law and order. Warren, Hillsborough State Attorney, With other officials in Tampa Bay, they sat at banquet tables on either side of the DeSantis Tribune.

But DeSantis’ letter contained a warning.

My point is very simple: plaintiffs must follow the law. They can’t just say they won’t sue because the law goes against their political ideology. “We will not tolerate this kind of behavior in Florida.”

Four months later, DeSantis ousted Warren, accusing him of being the same type of attorney general he was warning voters about in blue states—in large part because Warren signed letters saying he wouldn’t prosecute crimes related to abortion restrictions or sex confirmation. Caring for transgender children. But Warren’s firing was more than keeping a promise. It was also an escalation of DeSantis’ use of executive power Energy.

The governor, who often emphasizes his philosophy of having a strong CEO, has constantly expanded his reach in Florida. He has taken unprecedented steps toward that goal, such as bypassing the Republican Party’s legislative leadership by mapping out new congressional maps of Florida and influencing the GOP primaries.

“There is no doubt that he has tried, and has largely accomplished, his goal of expanding executive power,” said Daryl Paulson, a former professor of political science at the University of South Florida.

Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during the governor’s luncheon on the opening day of the Florida State Fair at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa on Thursday, February 10, 2022. Andrew Warren is one of the officials seated at the podium. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

DeSantis’ tactics also included punishing those he believed to be breaking what is acceptable—whether it was Disney, a Miami bar or, as of last week, Warren.

Florida governors have suspended the work of local elected officials before through the authority granted to them in the state constitution. However, this crucial step was often reserved for officials accused of crimes – making Warren’s dismissal a major step beyond that standard.

“It’s clearly beyond the limits here,” Paulson said. “This does not mean that DeSantis does not have a legitimate view.”

Warren can challenge his suspension in court or through the increasingly conservative Senate in Florida. The legislature has the final say on whether or not the attorney general’s dismissal will remain, but it is unlikely to veer away from DeSantis.

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In response, his critics only raised the volume of their complaints that DeSantis had become a powerful authoritarian.

Pat Kemp, a Hillsborough County Democratic commissioner, described Warren’s removal as Hillsborough’s “January 6 moment” in a tweet.

Saint Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, who has a more moderate tone when delving into hot political topics, tweeted a sharp condemnation, saying DeSantis’ action “altered election results, ignored due process, and violated our sacred trust in democracy.”

heavier approach

When it comes to suspending local elected officials, DeSantis has been intentionally more aggressive than his predecessors, including former Republican Governor Rick Scott, now in the US Senate.

While Scott resisted pressure from other Republicans, Including then Speaker of the House Richard CorcoranBroward Sheriff Scott Israel’s Commentary After the Parkland Mass Shooting, DeSantis Removed Israel He promised a campaign – and this was followed days after his inauguration.

Scott Israel, Mayor of Broward County, and then Florida Governor Rick Scott speak to the media as they visit Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the school shooting that killed 17 people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida.  (Photo by Joe Riddell/Getty Images)
Scott Israel, Mayor of Broward County, and then Florida Governor Rick Scott speak to the media as they visit Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the school shooting that killed 17 people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Joe Riddell/Getty Images)

During Scott’s Trial, Scott clashed with the state’s attorney, Aramis Ayala, after she said she would not seek the death penalty. Instead of removing her from her position, Scott chose to reassign many of her cases. Ayala is now running for Florida’s attorney general.

Related: When and why Florida governors suspended elected officials

State Senator Jeff Brands, a Republican from St. Petersburg, said Warren’s dismissal raises a legal question: Under what circumstances can DeSantis preemptively remove someone from office?

While Warren signed letters stating his intent not to pursue certain cases, there was no evidence that he refused specific cases of abortion or transient medical care, the latter of which are not prohibited by any current state law.

Brandes noted that Democratic candidates often sign off on the party’s platform, which runs counter to restrictions on abortion.

Can he remove every state attorney in the state? Can he impeach a Democratic judge? “Where does the length of that force go?” said Brandes.

Related: Will Governor DeSantis’ dismissal of Tampa state attorney Andrew Warren survive?

Representative Mike Beltran, a Lithian Republican, said DeSantis was within his rights — in fact, it was irresponsible to leave Warren in place. Beltran alleged that Warren refused to pursue important public safety issues as well as sign more hypothetical pledges.

In an ideal world, Beltran added, “The governor should appoint prosecutors because that shouldn’t be political.” “I think the CEO should go and pick who is the most qualified to take on these roles.”

Dave Arronberg, the attorney general and a Democrat for Palm Beach County, said while personally disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Raw vs. WadeHe is careful not to sign pledges on the kinds of issues he will and will not pursue.

He said: “We all swear an oath to respect the constitution and the law, which means that we are required to review each issue on a case-by-case basis.”

Arnberg joked that when DeSantis’ office announced an event in West Palm Beach on Friday, people started calling him to see if he was next.

“I survived another day,” he said with a laugh.

“What can I do… without anyone checking me out?”

DeSantis expanded the powers of his office in ways large and small.

In another letter in February, DeSantis told the crowd that once he took office, he wanted to know his powers.

“The first thing I said to the General Counsel was: I want you to give me a dossier of all the powers of the governor. What can I do as a matter of constitutional right without anyone checking me?” DeSantis said at a Naples event hosted by Hillsdale College, a private Christian conservative school.

“We have a strategic kind of element in everything we do,” he said. “Anything I say, I expect to get it done.”

Early in his term, DeSantis fired the longtime chief justice of the Department of Administrative Hearings, a shadowy but powerful group of judges who meddle in state agency rules and bid disputes, making them important to companies that fund political campaigns and make money from the government.

The legislature has pushed to give him more power over agency appointments, put $1 billion into the governor’s emergency fund and create a first-of-its-kind election security force staffed by state police officers selected by the governor.

He has clashed with Disney over her opposing statements to the “Parental Rights to Education” bill, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Legal experts have raised questions about whether DeSantis violated the giant’s right to political expression. After a government agency filed a complaint against a Miami bar saying it subjected minors to “sexually explicit drag shows,” some other companies and performers in the Miami drag industry worried they might be next.

But as with his fight with Disney, political observers often say that DeSantis is embracing — and sometimes even pursuing — big political fights because he can.

Related: DeSantis embraces Disney fight as part of ‘fighting’ political figure

Warren’s comment quickly became national news. Immediately after his press conference on Thursday, DeSantis spoke with Fox News digital, then joined Tucker Carlson later that evening.

“Because he has built such a track record of doing the right thing and building popularity (among Republican voters) … I think he has that platform and the ability to go places other politicians don’t have, can’t and won’t,” said Stephen Lawson, a Republican political strategist in Georgia who has worked In the 2018 DeSantis campaign.

“He’s willing to do it and go out and I think that’s why he’s still being rewarded for that.”

Times/Herald Tallahassee reporter Anna Ceballos contributed to this report.

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