TALLAHASSEE — The chairman of Florida’s Republican Party is the subject of a rape investigation, though no charges have been filed and his lawyer said he will be exonerated.
Still, the investigation into Christian Ziegler comes at a critical time for the Republican Party of Florida: Two Florida Republicans — former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis — are running for president and the state GOP is working to reelect U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. Florida was also key to Republicans winning a slim majority in the U.S. House in 2022 and the party will be defending the newly won seats.
The Florida Center for Government Accountability was first to publicly report about the investigation into Ziegler, who is married to Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler. The Associated Press asked the Sarasota Police Department for documents related to an investigation into Christian Ziegler. It provided a heavily redacted incident report. It has several mentions of rape and sexual assault, but any mention of Ziegler is redacted.
“Mr. Ziegler has been fully cooperative with every request made by the Sarasota Police Department,” his lawyer, Derek Byrd, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain. I would caution anyone to rush to judgment until the investigation is concluded.”
The police report was filed Oct. 4 about an incident two days earlier in a private home.
Democrats were quick to make a political issue of the investigation.
“I applaud the accuser’s bravery in coming forward against a political figure as powerful as Christian Ziegler,” state Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried said in a statement. “Ziegler can’t possibly continue to lead the Florida GOP under these conditions.”
Ziegler took over the party in February, three months after DeSantis won a landslide re-election in an election where Florida was one of the few bright spots for Republicans nationally.
Ziegler and his wife are a Republican power couple. Bridget Ziegler is on the Sarasota County School Board and has received national attention for her work with Moms for Liberty, a group that promotes a conservative agenda for public schools on issues like civil and LGBTQ rights and teaching about the experience of marginalized communities.
Ron DeSantis appointed Bridget Ziegler to a state-created board to oversee development on Disney World property. DeSantis stripped Disney of its ability to self-governor and created the board amid a feud that began when the entertainment company opposed his effort to ban instruction on LGBTQ topics in public schools.