There’s a reason Allison Miller feels like she has a spotlight and a target on her back as she campaigns for State Attorney in Florida’s 6th Judicial District, which is home to the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater. That’s because she’s in the only State Attorney race on the ballot in Florida this November, and it’s the first time a Democrat has fought for Pinellas and Pasco County’s lead prosecutor, since 1992.
“Sometimes, it feels very much like I have all of the Florida GOP coming at me,” Allison told HollywoodLife in an EXCLUSIVE interview. “I am kind of the representative of the fight against the status quo, the good old boy cronyism, the [Governor Ron] DeSantis’ ‘law and order’ types.”
That’s because she’s fighting to modernize courts and prosecute the crime that is actually harming her district, while Gov. DeSantis is focused on culture wars like abortion, book-banning, transgender healthcare, curtailing protestors’ rights, and more. Allison is also the only Democrat who has run for Pasco and Pinellas County’s State Attorney in nearly 3 decades. She’s campaigning against Bruce Bartlett, after the death of long-serving Republican prosecutor Bernie McCabe in Jan. 2021 triggered a special election. McCabe never faced an opponent during his 28 years in office, so the race is shaking up both sides.
Allison, a mother, wife and long-serving public defender, is well-suited for the role of State Attorney. Her first encounter with the law was as the victim of a violent assault as a teenager, and later in college after surviving rape. From there, she became fascinated with trying to “understand” why people commit crimes.
After college, she studied law at the Florida State University College of Law, before an internship at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lead to a 15-year career in the Public Defender’s office. There, she’d became one of the few public defenders to take on death penalty cases, a mission-driven by her belief in the “dignity of all human life from conception through natural death” as a Catholic. She has also helped co-write legislation protecting the mentally ill from the death penalty.
As a public defender, Allison saw her area’s prison numbers surge, largely because of non-violent drug offenses and harsh cash bail policies. Instead of tackling the issue, she remembered reading an interview where acting State Attorney Bartlett said his office’s “most effective” quality is its “lack of change.” “That’s when I decided to run against him, because that became untenable,” Allison said.
Prosecutors like State Attorneys in Florida are dealing with a broader scope of issues these days. In addition to rising crime and worried communities, some local prosecutors are being forced to weigh in on issues like abortion and transgender healthcare, as in Florida.
Just the day before Allison and HollywoodLife spoke, Gov. DeSantis suspended Florida State Attorney Andrew Warren of Hillsborough County for pledging against prosecuting the state’s 15-week abortion ban. (The ban is in legal limbo after being deemed unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court before the fall of Roe V. Wade in Jun. 2022.) Looking to Florida’s highest court as guidance, Allison has also pledged against prosecuting abortion as a crime if elected, and because of this, she’s even more worried about becoming a political “target.”
“The governor has already made Andrew Warren a target because of his views on prosecuting abortion, views I share,” Allison explained. “So, I do have some concern that I might be who the governor is coming for next.”
Those worries, however, aren’t keeping Allison from fighting for criminal justice reform. Though she is ready to refurb the Pasco and Pinellas County justice system, the public defender is far from a “progressive prosecutor” or the “soft on crime” candidate the other side might try to paint her as. “I believe I am the law and order candidate”, noting her stance on modernizing the courts and reducing the chance petty non-violent criminals will get stuck in the system, draining resources.
Still, Allison was quick to admit she’s not for maintaining the status quo. “If you think we should keep doing it the same way we’ve been doing it for 40, 50, 60 years, then I’m not the right candidate for you,” she explained. “But if you think that we could do it better to keep people safer, to be a better steward of the taxpayer dollars, and hopefully provide folks a pathway to redemption out of the system, then you should definitely vote for me.”
Allison is endorsed by Run For Something, the Democratic Women’s Club Of Florida, Vote Pro Choice, Real Justice, and Vote Mama.