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Head of Florida Republican Party accused of sexual battery, under investigation

An attorney representing Christian Ziegler said his client would be exonerated.
 
Florida Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler addresses attendees at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Kissimmee, Fla.
Florida Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler addresses attendees at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Kissimmee, Fla. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Nov. 30, 2023|Updated Nov. 30, 2023

The Sarasota Police Department is investigating an allegation of sexual battery made against Christian Ziegler, the chairperson of the Republican Party of Florida.

In response to a request for a complaint filed against Ziegler, the Sarasota police provided the Tampa Bay Times with a heavily redacted report from early October that only revealed a few words, including “raped” and “sexually battered.” Nearly all other details from the report, including names, were blacked out, with police citing, in part, an active criminal investigation.

There have been no charges filed in the case.

Derek Byrd, an attorney representing Ziegler, said his client was working with police.

“Mr. Ziegler has been fully cooperative with every request made by the Sarasota Police Department,” Byrd said in an emailed statement. “We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated. Unfortunately, public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain.”

The accusations against Ziegler were first reported by the Florida Center for Government Accountability, which cited anonymous sources with knowledge of the investigation. According to the story, the woman who filed the complaint alleged that she had been in a long-term, consensual three-way relationship with Ziegler and his wife, Bridget. The Tampa Bay Times has not independently confirmed that information.

Neither Christian nor Bridget Ziegler responded to voicemails seeking comment.

The Republican Party of Florida could not be reached for comment on whether Christian Ziegler would remain chairperson during the investigation. Calls made to its main phone line were met with a busy tone. A voicemail left for vice chairperson Evan Power was not returned.

The Florida Democratic Party on Thursday called for Ziegler to resign.

“Allegations of rape and sexual battery are severe and should be taken seriously,” Democratic chairperson Nikki Fried said. “I applaud the accuser’s bravery in coming forward against a political figure as powerful as Christian Ziegler, and I trust that the Sarasota Police Department will conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations of criminal behavior.”

Ziegler has emerged as a key political figure as Republicans have dominated Florida elections in recent years, including taking supermajorities in the Legislature, and as the state has become home to two of the party’s biggest names nationwide. The Republican Party of Florida’s Freedom Summit in Kissimmee earlier this month featured speeches from former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis plus a cast of other ambitious politicians.

Bridget Ziegler is also a major figure in the state, having co-founded the conservative education group Moms for Liberty. She is a Sarasota County School Board member who was endorsed by DeSantis, and was named by the governor to sit on the board that oversees the overhauled Walt Disney World special tax district.

On Thursday, the Moms for Liberty account on X, formerly known as Twitter, posted: “Yet another attempt today to ruin the reputation of a strong woman fighting for America. ... We stand with @BridgetAZiegler & every other badass woman fighting for kids & America.”

The post was later deleted.

The Republican Party of Sarasota County said in a statement it was “shocked and disappointed to hear of the reports” concerning the Zieglers.

”The Republican Party takes all such allegations of potential criminal conduct very seriously and will fully cooperate with investigators,” the group said.