TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Republican Party of Florida chairman is facing mounting pressure to resign as police investigate a rape allegation, with Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott joining Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday in saying Christian Ziegler should step down rather than be a distraction during an important election year.
Beyond the possibility of criminal charges, Ziegler and his wife Bridget, a co-founder of Moms for Liberty, are being called out for the hypocrisy of admitting a sexual relationship with another woman even though they very publicly fight against LGBTQ+ rights.
“The allegations are very disturbing,” Scott said in a statement released by his reelection campaign. “I don’t see how Christian can continue to successfully act as chairman while this cloud hovers over him.”
The allegation comes as Scott is being challenged by former Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell as he seeks a second term, DeSantis is running for president and the state is expected to play a role in the balance of power in the U.S. House.
Ziegler is refusing to step down, saying he had a consensual sexual relationship with a woman who agreed to have sex with him and his wife. But the woman told police Ziegler raped her when she refused to have sex without Bridget Ziegler present.
The party has a moral clause that could allow board members to oust Ziegler. Vice Chairman Evan Power emailed party leaders and called for an emergency meeting.
“In an act of respect for the Chairman, this evening, I phoned him to request he call an executive board meeting; he declined and said the matters could be taken up in February. It is the opinion of the many members that is not an acceptable timetable,” Power wrote.
A meeting is being planned in less than two weeks in which Ziegler could be ousted.
Democrats are saying Bridget Ziegler also should step down from her elected position on the Sarasota County School Board because she admitted to police that she and her husband were part of a sexual relationship with another woman despite her anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.
“It is not about Bridget’s sexual orientation,” said Democratic House Leader Fentrice Driskell during an online news conference. “This is 100% about the hypocrisy. It is about the hypocrisy, the hypocrisy, the hypocrisy.”
Moms for Liberty issued a statement saying that while Bridget Ziegler is an “avid warrior for parental rights,” she stepped down from the group shortly after she helped start it.
“To our opponents who have spewed hateful vitriol over the last several days: We reject your attacks. We will continue to empower ALL parents to build relationships that ensure the survival of our nation and a thriving education system,” said co-founders Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice. “That mission is and always will be bigger than any one person.”
No charges have been filed against Ziegler, but the Sarasota Police investigation remains open. The accuser, who has known Christian Ziegler for 20 years, told police in October that he forced his way into her apartment and raped her, according to search warrant affidavits filed by police.
Bridget Ziegler also was appointed by DeSantis to the board that now oversees Walt Disney World’s land development. DeSantis pushed through legislation last year disbanding a Disney-controlled board after the company opposed his bill that limits sex education in schools.
The rape accusation against Christian Ziegler became public last week after the Florida Center for Government Accountability, an investigative news organization, obtained a police report and the search warrant affidavits detailing the allegations.
DeSantis called for Christian Ziegler to resign last week and repeated it during a news conference Tuesday.
“When you have an investigation of crimes of this magnitude, I think the mission has to come first. It is not helpful to the mission to have this hanging over his head,” said DeSantis, adding that House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo agree. “Most people acknowledge that it’s just an untenable situation.”
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