The Republican Party of Florida condemned Chairman Christian Ziegler

Florida GOP leaders declared embattled Speaker Christian Ziegler “unfit for office” on Sunday and stripped him of his power, cutting his salary from $120,000 to $1.

Their actions were prompted by a rape charge filed against Ziegler in late November and the criminal investigation by Sarasota police that began in response. He called the meeting at the center of the investigation consensual and refused to step down despite growing calls for his resignation.

The proposals at the extraordinary meeting of the party’s executive committee in Orlando were unanimously adopted. The motion to censure Ziegler states that the party has lost confidence in him because he “engaged in conduct that renders him unfit for office.”

Members have scheduled a Jan. 8 meeting in Tallahassee — one day before the Florida Legislature begins its regular session — to vote on whether to oust Ziegler from office.

Michael Thompson, chairman of the Lee County Republican Executive Committee, said those gathered were frustrated, disappointed and “anxious to get this over with.” He said Ziegler spoke at the meeting and apologized “for bringing shame to the party and his family” but that he was ready to return to work for the Republican Party.

Ziegler mentioned that there are donors who have pledged to donate to the party if it makes it through the crisis. “Everybody in the room just took it as a slap in the face, like, you know, let me stay and I’ll bring in donors,” Thompson said.

Ziegler’s accuser, whose name has not been released, told police the alleged rape happened in October. She had previously had a three-way affair with Ziegler and his wife Bridget, and they had all arranged to meet again. But she canceled when Ziegler said his wife couldn’t come. He then came alone to her apartment and assaulted her, she told police.

Both Zieglers have admitted to having this earlier sexual contact with the woman.

The couple is prominent and politically influential in Florida, where Bridget Ziegler, co-founder of Moms for Liberty and a member of the Sarasota County School Board, has led efforts and policies to ban books targeting the LGBTQ community.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was one of the first top state Republicans to tell Christian Ziegler to step down after the police report on the rape allegations was released by the Florida Center for Government Accountability.

Other party leaders soon followed, including state legislative leaders and a majority of the state party’s 40-member executive committee. Last week, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, one of Ziegler’s political mentors, also called on him to quit.

“Christian must voluntarily step down before the executive committee takes action against him,” Buchanan said in a statement. “His position as party leader is no longer tenable given what has happened.”

On Saturday, U.S. Rep. Matt Goetz, who urged patience when the rape allegation first surfaced, also called on him to step down. Ziggler, 40, remained defiant. He emailed party members on Dec. 2 — the subject line was “Update/Explanation” — to say he had been singled out “most likely because my wife and I are such strong political voices.”

A statement from his attorney, Derek Bird, was attached, saying “we are confident that once the police investigation is complete, no charges will be laid and Mr. Ziegler will be fully exonerated.”

Last week, Sarasota police said their investigation was ongoing.

Ziegler requested a buyout of up to $2 million as a condition of stepping down, according to executive committee members. He called such reports “100% false.”

Bridget Ziegler continues to face turmoil within the school board, which last week passed a resolution asking her to resign. That meeting was marked by sharp public comments, with dozens of parents and local residents denouncing what they called her hypocrisy given the family values ​​she promotes.

Only DeSantis can remove her from the board, and he has not commented on whether he plans to do so.

She also serves on the Central Florida Regional Tourism Oversight Board, which DeSantis and state lawmakers created after disbanding the body that for half a century managed the land around Walt Disney World.

The feud between Disney and DeSantis erupted last year when the company criticized legislation that banned the discussion of gender in public schools. Bridget Ziegler was a vocal supporter of the measure and, like DeSantis, criticized Disney for being too “woke.”

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