Governor Ron DeSantis has called for an embattled GOP chairman in Florida to resign. The presidential candidate’s decision comes right after the Democrats made the same request.
“I don’t see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing given the gravity of those situations, and so I think that he should, I think he should step aside,” DeSantis told reporters Thursday night, referring to Florida Republican Party Chairman Christian Ziegler.
“He’s innocent till proven guilty, but we just can’t have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny,” he added about the case of alleged sexual battery currently being investigated by law enforcement.
While Florida’s Republican Party said it “is aware of the allegations related to Chairman Christian Ziegler,” in a statement, there was no further comment about any investigation, which has been confirmed as active by the Sarasota police. Ziegler’s name reportedly does not appear in the heavily redacted police report.
According to The Washington Post:
Police in Sarasota, Fla., are conducting an investigation involving Ziegler, according to a police incident report and a statement from his attorney.
Ziegler is the husband of Sarasota County School Board member and Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler. When asked about the investigation, Sarasota police did not confirm details.
However, they released a heavily redacted police report in response to The Washington Post’s inquiry that includes the words “rape,” “raped” and “sexually battered.” The incident, which the report indicates took place at a home in Sarasota, was reported to police in early October.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried called for Ziegler’s immediate resignation.
“Allegations of rape and sexual battery are severe and should be taken seriously,” she said. “I applaud the accuser’s bravery in coming forward against a political figure as powerful as Christian Ziegler, and I trust that the Sarasota Police Department will conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations of criminal behavior. Christian Ziegler can’t possibly continue to lead the Florida GOP under these conditions. Given the severity of the criminal allegations, I’m calling for his immediate resignation.”
The Florida Democratic Party is calling for the immediate resignation of GOP Chair Christian Ziegler following reports he is under criminal investigation for rape and sexual battery.
Full statement: https://t.co/pVI7I3AVvx
— Florida Democrats (@FlaDems) November 30, 2023
“We acknowledge the reports that there is an investigation being conducted by the Sarasota Police Department regarding Mr. Ziegler,” the GOP chair’s attorney, Derek Byrd, said in a statement, adding that Ziegler “has been fully cooperative” with police.
“We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated,” the attorney said.
Ziegler reportedly conveyed the same message as Byrd when asked for comment, WaPo noted, adding that his wife, who helped write Florida’s “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” did not respond to a request.
“The Zieglers are considered rising stars in Florida’s conservative movement, having become among the most prominent Republicans in the state,” the Washington Post reported. “Christian Ziegler rose through the ranks of Florida’s Republican Party to become its chairman in February after serving as the party’s vice chairman and as a Sarasota County commissioner.”
Bridget Ziegler was handpicked by DeSantis this year to serve on the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, an area that includes the sprawling Walt Disney World Resort.
“We stand with the victim, and we send strength her way and hope she receives the justice she deserves as we do with any other survivor of sexual violence,” said Sarah Parker, the executive director of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida.
“I hope the charges aren’t true,” DeSantis told reporters Thursday. “I’ve known him, I’ve known Bridget; they’ve been friends. But the mission is more important.”
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