“Social justice warrior” has become somewhat of a pejorative in the political lexicon. But if one were to describe what an effective social justice warrior might look like, you’re likely to get something close, if not exactly, like Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren.
Warren has climbed the list steadily since defeating Republican incumbent Mark Ober in 2016. He has moved up one spot since last year, which had him up one spot from the list before.
Major reforms have marked Warren’s tenure as the top prosecutor in the county, to Hillsborough’s justice system and bullish stance against bills like 2021’s HB 1. The bill, filed in the wake of civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis Police, was a priority of the Governor. Warren called the bill unconstitutional and unnecessary because the state already had sufficient anti-riot laws.
Warren didn’t just publicly proclaim he wouldn’t enforce the law, he refused to prosecute 67 protesters arrested in early June after Tampa protests turned violent. He also sought to expunge the arrests from each person’s record and praised protesters for calling for reform. And the judicial system has so far sided with Warren. Federal Judge Mark Walker in September issued an injunction blocking the enforcement of HB 1. The Governor has appealed, but during a hearing Thursday, each of the three judges seemed skeptical the law would stand. However, a ruling was not issued.
“Since being elected as Hillsborough County’s State Attorney, Andrew Warren has emerged as an important voice on issues of justice reform,” said Ron Pierce, president of RSA Consulting. “He is frequently at the center of these policy conversations at the local and statewide levels, and he has had a major impact.”
Warren was quick to indicate he wouldn’t wait for the Legislature to reform the criminal justice system. He began using every constitutionally granted power he could to change the system and keep youth and low-level offenders out. Warren took steps to decrease the number of people arrested and incarcerated for first-time, nonviolent offenses, and he worked to disarm domestic abusers and increase the use of problem-solving courts. Annually, his programs keep about 700 children and 850 adults out of the system.
He also instituted programs to get people out of prison. In 2018, he launched a Conviction Review Unit. That team helped exonerate Robert Earl DuBoise, released from prison after serving 37 years for the 1983 rape and murder of a young woman in Tampa. Warren’s office helped reveal DuBoise’s wrongful conviction.
And it’s not just the bipedal population that Warren is looking out for. They praised him for coming down hard on the CEO of an animal charity who filed fraudulent pet insurance claims.
Warren has also held himself accountable. He was one of three prosecutors nationwide (two in Florida) to sign onto the Prosecutorial Performance Indicator project. Through that initiative, Warren could add a public-facing, data-driven dashboard to his office’s website that tracks the success of prosecutor offices and how those offices serve the community. It uses 55 indicators to measure performance toward the goals of capacity and efficiency, community safety and well-being, and fairness and justice.
And he’s far from done. This year, Warren is tackling another new initiative. He’s chairing the Florida Democratic Party’s Safety & Justice Task Force.
“Andrew Warren stepped up as a statewide voice during last year’s anti-riot House Bill 1 and this year’s proposed Election Security force — in both cases, pushing back with thoughtful arguments grounded in reality and sound policy,” said Preston Rudie, founder of Catalyst Communications Group.
“Now, he’s tapped to serve as chair of the Florida Democratic Party’s Safety & Justice Task Force, and he will spend 2022 crisscrossing Florida with a group of leaders from the justice system. They’re gathering innovative ideas to tackle crime and then reporting back the best ones for cities and counties to consider putting in place. With an expanding voice on statewide issues and the opportunity to produce positive results in his wheelhouse of justice reform, Andrew Warren is poised to continue increasing his impact.”
The task force will look at three goals: reducing crime by tackling the root causes of criminal behavior and minimizing recidivism; prioritizing prosecutions of the greatest threat to communities, while offering alternatives to low-level offenders; and building stronger bonds between law enforcement and communities.
Joe Henderson’s take: As the Hillsborough County State Attorney, Warren is duty-bound to be tough on crime. And he is, when it’s merited. But he has become a leading voice in the state for badly needed criminal justice reform, which puts him at odds with the current climate in Tallahassee. Good.
As for methodology, we define the Tampa Bay region as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.
We define a politician as being in office or running for office.
Being first on a panelist’s list earns the politician 25 points, second earns them 24 points and so on, to where being listed 25th earns a politician one point. Points are added and, voilà, we have a list.
Special thanks go to our experienced and knowledgeable panelists, who were essential to developing the 2022 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting, Ricky Butler of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office, Reggie Cardozo of The Public Square, Ronald Christaldi of Schumaker, Evan Donovan of WFLA, Joe Farrell of Pinellas Realtors, pollster Matt Florell of Vicidial Group, Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group, political consultant Max Goodman, Mike Griffin of Savills, Joe Henderson, Todd Josko of Ballard Partners, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, Patrick Manteiga, publisher of LaGaceta, Seth McKeel of The Southern Group, Jennifer Motsinger, EVP of Tampa Bay Builders Association, Mitch Perry of Charter News, Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting, Preston Rudie of Catalyst Communications Group, and Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.