Dec 4, 2023 - News

Officials call for Ziegler to resign amid sexual battery probe into Florida GOP chair

Ziegler addresses attendees at the Florida Freedom Summit at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

State Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and state House Speaker Paul Renner have both called for state GOP Chair Christian Ziegler to resign over allegations of sexual battery that surfaced last week.

Driving the news: The call from Florida's two Republican legislative leaders comes days after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a similar demand — heaping further pressure on Ziegler, who has so far dismissed such requests.

  • "We have a country to save, and I am not going to let false allegations of a crime put that mission on the bench as I wait for this process to wrap up," Ziegler wrote in an email to supporters on Saturday.
  • Ziegler is a prominent political figure in Florida and an ally of DeSantis.

Why it matters: This coordinated stance from top Republican officials in Florida reflects growing concern within the party over the allegations against Ziegler and potential damage to the party's reputation.

How we got here: The Sarasota Police Department is investigating Ziegler for allegations of sexual battery, according to a search warrant affidavit shared with Axios by the Florida Trident.

  • The accuser told police in October that she had a long-term sexual relationship with Ziegler and his wife, Bridget, before being "sexually assaulted" by Ziegler at her home without his wife present.
  • In an interview with detectives, Ziegler said he had "consensual sex with the victim" and recorded the encounter. No charges have been filed, but the department told Axios it's an "active investigation."
  • "We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed, and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated," attorney Derek Byrd told Axios in an emailed statement.

What they're saying: "The governor is the leader of our party. I agree with his position," Passidomo tells Axios. "The allegations are serious and will require Chair Zeigler's full attention."

  • "It is untenable for Christian Ziegler to continue as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and I recommend he resign his post," Renner said in a statement shared with Axios and other outlets. "We need someone who can provide the singular focus the party needs."
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