'Resign immediately': Florida GOP to discuss ousting chair accused of sexual assault

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Republican Party of Florida leaders are poised to discuss ousting Christian Ziegler as party chair after it was revealed he was accused of sexual assault and is being investigated by Sarasota police.

Florida GOP Vice Chair Evan Power sent an email to the party's executive board Monday calling for a special meeting on Dec. 17 to discuss the allegations against Ziegler, who wrote a strident email Saturday indicating he won't resign.

"I have been informed that it is the will of the board to have an opportunity to discuss these recent developments," Power wrote in the email obtained by USA TODAY Network - Florida.

Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler
Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler

The meeting agenda shows that actions the board may take include "appointing a special investigative committee" to weigh whether Ziegler's removal is warranted and establishing a "date certain for the Executive Board to hear evidence and consider discipline including but not limited to removal from office or expulsion from the party." The board also could suspend Ziegler's authority during a committee investigation and considering a "vote of no confidence and formal censure."

If the board appoints an investigative committee on Dec. 17, the committee would be given a timetable to complete the investigation and then another meeting would be held to consider removing Ziegler.

Pressure has been building on Ziegler to depart the chair job since it was revealed the Sarasota Police Department is investigating an allegation that he sexually assaulted a woman at her Sarasota apartment in early October.

Ziegler told police the sexual encounter was consensual. Documents released from the investigation show both the alleged victim and Ziegler's wife, Sarasota County School Board member and Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler, told police they had a three-way sexual encounter more than a year ago that included the two women and Christian Ziegler.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, Attorney General Ashley Moody, state Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner all called on Ziegler to resign as Florida GOP chair in recent days, and he also is under fire from grassroots GOP activists.

DeSantis reiterated his position Tuesday during an event on Marco Island.

"When you have an investigation of crimes of this magnitude I think that the mission has to come first," DeSantis said. "It is not helpful to the mission to have this hanging over his head, and so I've said he should step aside.

Scott put out a statement Tuesday saying: "I don't see how Christian can continue to successfully act as Chairman while this cloud hovers over him."

Some of the most ardent MAGA Republicans in the Florida GOP also are turning on Ziegler, making it increasingly difficult for the embattled chair to hold onto his job.

Lake County GOP Chair Anthony Sabatini, Lee County GOP Chair Michael Thompson and Indian River County GOP Chair Rev. John Vacchiano all told USA TODAY NETWORK - Florida in interviews that they want Ziegler to resign.

“I believe the right thing for him to do is to step down so the party can regain it’s focus," said Sabatini, an ultra conservative former state representative.

Thompson described the three as "America First" conservatives who are strongly aligned with former President Donald Trump's MAGA movement, or "hardcore MAGA." All sit on the Florida GOP's executive board and would have a vote on what actions to take against Ziegler.

“I’m speaking on behalf of the America First block of the Republican Party of Florida," Thompson said. "I have over a dozen chairmen that are in agreement that chairman Ziegler needs to resign immediately."

Rev. Vacchiano, pastor of the Patriot Church in Sebastian, is vice chair of the Florida GOP's Faith Mobilization Committee.

“Being a pastor… there’s just certain things we believe we should be upholding, integrity, morality and so forth," Vacchiano said. "At this point it doesn’t look very good for our chairman, we think the best thing to do is resign."

Thompson said he doesn't believe Ziegler sexually assaulted the alleged victim, but he believes that information in police documents about the chair's sexual activity makes him unqualified to lead the party going forward.

“We have to stand up as Christian conservatives and drawn the line… we have to stand on principles or we don’t stand for anything," Thompson said.

Pinellas County GOP Chair Adam Ross, state Committeeman Todd Jennings and state Committeewoman Pam McAloon also put out a statement Tuesday calling on Ziegler to resign. McAloon is on the Florida GOP executive board.

"The Party's Executive Board has an important decision to make," the statement reads. "The mission of the RPOF Chair is to uphold the values of the Republican Party and help our great candidates win elections. We do not see how that can be done while Christian is dealing with his present personal affairs."

The executive board is roughly 30 individuals. It includes county party chairs, state committeemen and state committeewomen from around the state, along with party officers and others.

Ziegler has been defiant in the face of pressure to step aside. The embattled party chair sent an email to party activists Saturday that seemed to indicate he has no intention of resigning.

"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.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Florida Republican Party board may oust chair Ziegler in meeting