Aug 11, 2023 - Politics

Gov. Ron DeSantis changes tactic to remove Central Florida prosecutor

Monique Worrell speaks with members of the media at the State Attorney's Office this week in Orlando. Photo: Rich Pope/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images.

Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Monique Worrell, the top prosecutor in Central Florida, from her elected office almost exactly a year after he ousted then-Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.

Yes, but: DeSantis chose a different tactic for Worrell's removal — emphasizing policy choices instead of far-right cultural issues, like abortion or gender-affirming care.

Why it matters: The shift could be a tactic to make Worrell's removal seem less punitive and avoid the first amendment argument DeSantis faced with Warren's.

Zoom in: The governor bashed Worrell for policies that, he said, allowed "violent offenders, drug traffickers, serious juvenile offenders and pedophiles to evade incarceration when otherwise warranted under Florida law."

  • She signed the same pledge not to criminalize "transgender people and gender-affirming healthcare," that was highlighted in the executive order to remove Warren. But DeSantis' latest order doesn't reference it.

The intrigue: The removals have obvious similarities and political undertones. Both prosecutors are Democrats and DeSantis tapped conservative judges to be their successors.

Between the lines: DeSantis' order to remove Warren led a federal judge to opine the governor had punished him for his political leanings and that doing so violated Warren's free speech rights.

  • Aubrey Jewett, a University of Central Florida political science professor and longtime Florida politics observer, said DeSantis likely tried to make a "stronger legal case against" Worrell and provide more empirical data.
  • There's also a case to be made about the court of public opinion, Jewett told Axios. Republican voters have said in polls that crime is more important than "woke" issues.

The other side: DeSantis' office did not answer specific questions about the omission of the pledge. Instead, press secretary Jeremy Redfern pointed Axios to criminal case summaries to support Worrell's removal.


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