Florida’s DeSantis replaces elected Democratic prosecutor

(Reuters) -Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday suspended a county prosecutor after accusing her of being soft on crime, making her the second elected Democratic law-enforcement official to be removed by the Republican presidential hopeful.

DeSantis issued an executive order suspending Monique Worrell, the lead prosecutor in Orange and Osceola counties, and replacing her with Orange County Judge Andrew Bain, who the governor appointed to the bench in 2020.

“Worrell’s practices and policies have too often allowed violent criminals to escape the full consequences of their criminal conduct,” DeSantis said in a statement.

Worrell, elected in 2020, said her dismissal was an “attack on democracy” and her legal team was exploring options.

“Everyone – Democrat, Republican, independent or otherwise – should be concerned that here, in the state of Florida, one person can remove duly elected officials because they are not politically aligned,” Worrell said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Reid Out”.

Fair and Just Prosecution, an organization of progressive prosecutors, criticized the move.

“This is a deeply disturbing abuse of power that overrules the will of voters and threatens the separation of powers,” the group’s executive director, Miriam Krinsky, said in a statement.

Worrell is not the first Florida prosecutor whom DeSantis has dismissed. Last August, he suspended the Democratic state’s attorney for Hillsborough County, Andrew Warren, who had pledged that he would not bring criminal cases against people seeking or providing abortions despite legal restrictions that Florida has placed on the procedure.

Warren’s lawyer accused DeSantis of targeting dissenting voices, but a federal judge upheld the suspension.

In public opinion polls, DeSantis is running a distant second behind former President Donald Trump in the race for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election.

He replaced his campaign manager on Tuesday in an attempt to reboot his campaign.

DeSantis’ office sent a letter in April to Worrell’s office demanding that she hand over the criminal and judicial record of a suspect accused of killing three people, including a 9-year-old.

At the time, the governor criticized her office for failing to keep the suspect in jail for previous crimes. Worrell responded by saying she stood behind all decisions regarding the suspect’s juvenile and adult dispositions.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; additional reporting by Jasper Ward in Washington; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Stephen Coates)