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The co-founder of the far-right group Moms for Liberty made few remarks in the nearly four-hour meeting, during which dozens of residents demanded that she leave the board.

Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler listens to public comments, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, after her fellow school board members approved a resolution calling on her to resign. Mike Lang / Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP

By Lori Rozsa, Washington Post

Bridget Ziegler, half of a Florida Republican power couple embroiled in a rape allegation and same-sex scandal, refused to resign from her seat on the Sarasota County School Board on Tuesday night.

All four of her fellow board members – including two people she ran alongside last year – voted to ask her to step down.

The co-founder of the far-right group Moms for Liberty made few remarks in the nearly four-hour meeting, during which dozens of residents demanded that she leave the board.

“I’m disappointed,” Ziegler said after her colleagues asked her to step down, noting that their resolution “does not have any teeth.”

Only Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) can remove Ziegler from her position, and a separate vote to ask him to do so failed. She has been on the school board since 2014; her current term ends in 2026.

Her husband, Christian Ziegler, is the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Police are investigating him for an alleged sexual assault in October. He claims the encounter, which he videotaped, was consensual. The woman making the allegation said he raped her, according to an affidavit for a search warrant.

Both Zieglers have acknowledged having a three-way sexual encounter with the woman at a different time. She has made no public comments about the situation.

Like his wife, Christian Ziegler has refused to step down from his post despite increasing calls for him to do so, including from DeSantis. The party’s executive committee will meet Sunday to discuss Christian Ziegler’s future. His attorney has said the police investigation is “in its final stages.”

Although Bridget Ziegler is not under investigation, the other school board members said the news surrounding the revelations has created “a distraction” from their work. The vast majority of the speakers during the public comment session of Tuesday’s meeting agreed – some in very strong terms. Most condemned what they called her hypocrisy, saying children have been harmed by policies she pushed to eliminate support for the LGBTQ community.

“These people are hurting,” Sarasota County resident Sandy Armstrong said.

A crowd calls for the resignation of Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler before the board’s meeting Tuesday. Thomas Simonetti for The Washington Post

Students who usually attend the meeting – including the student representative on the board – were told to stay away. Board Chairman Karen Rose said that was due to “best practices under the current circumstances.”

DeSantis also appointed Bridget Ziegler to the board that took over Disney World’s special taxing district after the company criticized him for signing the Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed “don’t say gay” by opponents.

Ziegler has said she helped write that law. At a meeting last week of the replacement board – now called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District – she attended via an audio-only Zoom call and said nothing other than voting “aye” on two issues.

She mentioned her position on the Disney oversight board at the school board meeting Tuesday. “As people may know, I serve on another public board, and this issue did not come up,” she said.