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DeSantis mentions state attorney races when asked about new political committee

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DeSantis mentions state attorney races when asked about new political committee

Jun 12, 2024 | 5:04 pm ET
By Mitch Perry
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DeSantis mentions state attorney races when asked about new political committee
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Gov. Ron DeSantis in Tampa on June 12, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Perry/Florida Phoeix)

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that re-election campaigns of the two state attorneys he’s suspended as well as the constitutional amendment that would legalize recreational cannabis for adults in Florida are some of the top priorities of a political action committee that he’s involved with this election cycle.

The would be the Florida Freedom Fund, a political action committee that will have the ability to collect unlimited donations from individuals and corporations. The stated purpose of the PAC is to “promote and support principled conservative causes and candidates in the state of Florida,” according to its website.

During a press conference in Tampa following his signing of the 2024-25 state budget, the governor pounced on a question about how he intended to use that PAC this year.

DeSantis mentions state attorney races when asked about new political committee
Suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell holds news conference Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. Source: YouTube, WPTV News- Florida Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast
DeSantis mentions state attorney races when asked about new political committee
Screenshot of Andrew Warren’s campaign video released on April 16, 2024.

“Obviously, I’m going to be involved,” DeSantis said, adding that there was “a number of things that are going to be important for the state’s future,” beginning with the campaigns of the two Democratic state attorneys he has suspended over the past two years: Andrew Warren in Hillsborough County and Monique Worrell in Orange and Osceola counties.

Both are running for re-election for those positions.

In the case of Warren, DeSantis suspended him in August 2022 for alleged “neglect of duty” and “incompetence.” In August 2023 he suspended Worrell, claiming in an executive order that she had neglected her duty to faithfully prosecute crime in her jurisdiction.

Both Warren and Worrell have fought in the courts to get their jobs back. A federal judge ruled in January 2023 that Warren had done nothing wrong and that the governor had acted for his own political benefit, but that he was powerless to reinstate the twice-elected prosecutor.

Worrell took her case to the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld DeSantis’ decision to suspend her last week.

“Here in Hillsborough, I mean obviously, you need to elect a prosecutor that is going to put criminals away and hold them accountable, and you have someone in office right now who’s doing that,” DeSantis said, referring to Suzy Lopez, the former Hillsborough County judge whom DeSantis appointed to replace Warren. “So, I think that’s an important race.”

‘Political agenda’

He added that the Worrell race was equally important.

“The number one thing that has caused these cities to collapse — there’s been a bunch of factors, but the minute a prosecutor goes in and wants to do a political agenda and think that they’re somehow pursuing social justice by releasing criminals, the quality of life goes down,” he said. “The areas become more dangerous.”

Both Warren and Worrell have said in their campaign appearances that they had kept crime down in their respective communities. DeSantis discounted such proclamations.

“What they’ll do in some of those jurisdictions is they’ll say, ‘Oh, well, there’s fewer crimes now because there’s fewer reports of these crimes.’ If you get mugged in some of these places, nobody even bothers to report it, because they know nothing’s going to happen,” he said. “So, I think those two races are significant.”

The Phoenix reached out to both Warren and Worrell for responses.

“Looks like the governor finally realized the legal and constitutional way to keep someone from serving in office,” Warren said. “I’m sure he’ll keep repeating his false talking points, but voters won’t be fooled: They know we had tremendous success reducing crime, fighting for victims, and improving the system — and that crime has gone up significantly without me in office.”

“If Ron DeSantis truly prioritized reducing crime over playing politics, he would never have replaced a prosecutor who effectively drove down crime rates with a legal novice like Andrew Bain, who blindly supports every extreme agenda coming from the governor’s office,” said Keisha Mulfort, a spokesperson for Worrell.

“DeSantis failed at his abysmal presidential bid, so now he’s back to undermining the will of local communities. He ignores the fact that crime was not only decreasing under Monique Worrell’s leadership, but was at its lowest over the past decade, reflecting her effective approach to justice. His implication that crime was down because people didn’t report it is ludicrous. DeSantis doesn’t seem to know what he wants — lower crime rates or to continue pushing these culture wars that voters have consistently rejected in Orange and Osceola counties. It’s clear that neither DeSantis nor his handpicked state attorney have a genuine plan to keep our communities safe.”

Legal weed

The governor segued into once again attacking Amendment 3, the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November that would legalize recreational cannabis for adults 21 and over, saying that marijuana would reek everywhere across the state because of the way the ballot language is written.

“How the [Florida Supreme] Court let that language on the ballot, I will never ever understand,” he said.

“It does not do justice — I mean, the amendment language says that there can be no penalties for use or possession — civil, criminal, anything. I think it’s going to be very difficult for businesses to operate without that infringing on them. I think you’re going to see people — you’ll be able to bring what, 20 joints to an elementary school. Is that really going to be good for the state of Florida? I don’t think so.”

DeSantis went on to voice what could become a slogan for an anti-Amendment 3 campaign: “Even if you have no interest in marijuana, marijuana will have an interest in you.”

Morgan Hill, spokesperson for Safe & Smart Florida, the committee supporting Amendment 3, responded to the governor’s comments.

“The governor is remarkably wrong,” she said in an email.

“Not only is Amendment 3 specifically for adults 21+, schools across the state and nation have drug-free policies. Regulated marijuana dispensaries have a strong history of prohibiting underage sales. Additionally, we have great confidence in the state Legislature and know they will enact appropriate regulations to prevent consumption in other public spaces, in the way that they have successfully prevented alcohol from being consumed in schools and elsewhere.”

If the Florida Freedom Fund does intend to campaign against Amendment 3 and Amendment 4, the constitutional amendment that would restore a woman’s right to an abortion up until the time of viability (a new law bans abortions in the state after six weeks), it probably needs to get busy soon. A Fox News poll published last week showed that 69% of Floridians support the abortion-access initiative and 66% support legalizing the adult use of cannabis.