Hillsborough’s longstanding top prosecutor loses race to newcomer

Newly-elected Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.
Newly-elected Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Donald Trump wasn’t the only newcomer to shake up the establishment on Election Day.

For those who aren’t familiar with the name Andrew Warren, that’s about to change if the newly-elected Hillsborough State Attorney has his way.

In a stunning defeat on Tuesday night, the 39-year-old newcomer beat longtime incumbent, Mark Ober, by the narrowest of margins. According to the results, with all 340 precincts reporting, results showed Ober with 49.59 percent of the vote compared to Warren’s 50.41 percent. Data shows the difference in votes as 4,719.

Ober has served Hillsborough County for the last 16 years as the top prosecutor with most of his tenure going largely unchallenged.

Warren knew he was in for a big battle when he announced his candidacy the first week in January. The former federal prosecutor admits he ran this race for one reason and one reason only – his two little girls, ages 5 and 3, one of whom celebrated a birthday as the election returns came rolling in Tuesday.

“When we moved here several years ago, I wanted the best life for my family. I got into this race for them. I’m going to work hard every day to make our community safer for my family and every one in Hillsborough.”

As a relative unknown, the husband and father-of-two quickly realized that going up against a well-known, well-recognized name such as Mark Ober would not be easy.

Ober received numerous endorsements by big names in Tampa Bay law enforcement, such as Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway and former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, to name a few.

Ober’s office prosecuted high-profile cases, including cop-killer, Dontae Morris and the mother who murdered her children, Julie Schenecker. In fact, the 65-year-old cited his popularity and lengthy tenure throughout social media, using the hashtag #ExperienceMatters.

However, as Ober’s campaign began winding its way through the election, attack ads were run on behalf of the Warren campaign.

Election-watchers described this race as both hard-fought and downright nasty.

Warren claims his campaign was about people, specifically victims of sex crimes whom he says contacted him “in droves,” citing insensitive treatment by the Hillsborough State Attorney.

“This campaign was focused on issues from the very beginning, and we talked about things that were important to voters, and the outcome of the election proved that. People were concerned not just about conviction rates or incarceration rates, but the safety of their neighborhoods, about the fairness of the system, about how victims are treated,” Warren said.

The question on many minds now is the future of current prosecutors. Does Warren plan to clean house?  Will longtime members of the State Attorney’s Office lose their jobs?

Warren answered that question with an emphatic, “No.”  He tells WFLA there is some “tweaking” that needs to be done, and that he doesn’t plan on sweeping terminations.

As for Ober’s response to the election results, WFLA reached out to him today. He declined an on-camera interview, but did release a statement through his spokesperson, Mark Cox, who told us, “Mark Ober spoke to Andrew Warren this morning and congratulated him on his victory. Mark assured him that he would help with a smooth transition in the coming weeks. Mark is unavailable for comment.”

We’ll have more on newly elected state attorney Andrew Warren tonight at 5 on WFLA News Channel 8.

See all of the 2016 General Election Results here

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