Florida Republican Faces Uprising

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Florida Republican Faces Uprising

Florida Republican leaders, including Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott, have joined in the call for state GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler to resign amid recent allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman.

Ziegler has not been charged, but an investigation with the Sarasota Police remains open. Ziegler has maintained his innocence and said in a statement to Florida Republicans on Saturday that he and his wife, Bridget, are being targeted because they are “such loud political voices,” according to the Associated Press.

Ziegler has said that he will not resign, AP reported on Sunday. Newsweek has reached out to Ziegler’s office via online form for comment.

The woman claimed that Ziegler, a longtime friend, had come to her apartment and raped her after a planned threesome with Ziegler and his wife in early October, according to a court-filed search warrant affidavit. At the last minute, Bridget became busy and said she would no longer be able to make it. Ziegler admitted in a November interview with investigators that he had sex with the woman but that it was consensual, according to court documents.

DeSanits
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to guests during a campaign rally at the Thunderdome on December 2, 2023, in Newton, Iowa. Numerous Republican leaders, including DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott, have joined in the call for Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler to resign amid recent allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Ziegler is facing mounting pressure as 34 of the 40 members of the Florida GOP Executive Committee support his removal, according to Michael Barfield, director of Public Access at the Florida Center for Government Accountability. Newsweek could not independently verify which GOP leaders signed the letter. The Pinellas County GOP and Sarasota County GOP both called for his resignation this week.

The Pinellas County letter obtained by Newsweek stated, in part: “It is time for Christian Ziegler to resign as Chair of the Republican Party of Florida. We have read the reports provided and the allegations are very disturbing.”

While the leaders acknowledged that Ziegler is innocent until proven guilty, they said that “victims also have a right to be heard in court.”

Ultimately, the Pinellas County Republican leaders said the decision had to be made because Ziegler’s “personal affairs” would get in the way of the chairman’s mission to “uphold the values of the Republican Party and help our great candidates win elections.”

Newsweek reached out to Florida GOP and Pinellas GOP via email, as well as Sarasota GOP via online form, for comment.

DeSantis, who is running for president, is among the GOP leaders who have called Ziegler to resign, along with Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

“I think when you have an investigation of crimes of this magnitude, I think that the mission has to come first. It is not helpful to the mission to have this hanging over his head. And so, I’ve said he should step aside,” DeSantis said, in part, at a press conference on Tuesday.

DeSantis’ office told Newsweek via email on Wednesday: “Party politics are outside the purview of this office, and the governor’s statements speak for themselves.”

Scott, a former Florida governor, also voiced his concerns about Ziegler, saying, “I don’t see how Christian can continue to successfully act as chairman while this cloud hovers over him.”

Newsweek reached out to Scott via email for comment.

There’s no scenario where Christian can effectively do the job while dealing with these very serious allegations. As a former local chair, I know the responsibilities that come with the chairmanship. He’s lost the trust of the electeds, members and donors and he must resign.

— Nick DiCeglie (@NickDiCeglie) December 6, 2023

Nick DiCeglie, a Republican state senator, also slammed Ziegler on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday, saying: “There’s no scenario where Christian can effectively do the job while dealing with these very serious allegations. As a former local chair, I know the responsibilities that come with the chairmanship. He’s lost the trust of the electeds, members and donors and he must resign.”

“My family is rock solid,” Ziegler said Saturday in an email to supporters. “My wife is behind me 150% and we have methods in place to protect our [three] children, just as we have with all previous attacks that we have faced.”

Bridget Ziegler was interviewed by investigators in early November, confirming that she, her husband and the victim had been friends and had engaged in a consensual sexual encounter roughly a year prior to the assault that the victim alleged, according to court documents.

Bridget Ziegler, who co-founded Moms for Liberty, a conservative group that fights against LBGTQ+ causes, and her husband have received backlash from people on social media who called out the couple’s hypocrisy amid the investigation, given their support of conservative family values.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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