The embattled chairman of the Florida Republican Party was censured and stripped of his duties and salary on Sunday, decisions that all but evicted him from the party's top job as he faces a criminal investigation into an accusation of sexually assaulting a woman.
At an emergency meeting in Orlando, the party's executive committee stopped short of immediately expelling Christian Ziegler, the president. But the votes to declare him unfit for office, strip away almost all of his authority and reduce his salary to $1 were seen among many party members as the final steps before his possible removal from office.
Ziegler, 40, has been under criminal investigation in Sarasota, Florida, where he lives, since October, when a woman told police he had sexually assaulted her. He has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. He also has refused to resign since the investigation became public last month, despite sustained pressure from Republicans, from the governor to county chairmen, for him to resign.
Republicans have said they view the criminal investigation against Ziegler as serious and a distraction that would make it untenable for him to raise funds and mobilize the party ahead of an important presidential election year.
“The chairman of the Florida Republican Party has to do three things: represent the values of the Republican Party, be able to raise funds and support candidates running for public office,” Adam McGill Ross, chairman of the Republican Party. in Pinellas County, which is not part of the executive committee, said before the meeting. “He can't do those three things.”
He added: “I don't understand why he puts us through this spectacle.”
Ziegler told police he had consensual sex on Oct. 2 with the woman who accused him of sexual assault, according to a search warrant affidavit. His name has been removed from public records. The woman told police that she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Ziegler and his wife, Bridget Ziegler, more than a year ago, but that she refused to have sex with Mr. Ziegler on October 2 after meeting He realized that his wife wouldn't do it. join them. Ziegler then went to the woman's apartment uninvited and sexually assaulted her, he told police.
Ms. Ziegler is a member of the Sarasota County School Board and co-founder of the right-wing activist group Moms for Liberty, which has pushed anti-LGBTQ policies in schools. She has faced calls to resign, and critics have seized on the fact that she confirmed to police that she had participated in the earlier sexual encounter with the woman as an example of hypocrisy.
Ms. Ziegler also refused to resign, even after the school board voted 4-1 last week urging her to do so. (She cast the only negative vote.)
Ziegler told Moms for Liberty members at a media training session during their national conference in Philadelphia this summer to resist asking for forgiveness, after the group faced public outrage over a local chapter in Indiana citing Hitler in a bulletin.
“Never apologize. Never,” Ziegler said, according to NBC News. “This is my opinion. Other people have different views on this. I think apologizing weakens you.” (The chapter eventually apologized.)
The Zieglers' political stars had been rising in Florida before the scandal, especially in Sarasota, a hotbed of right-wing activism in the state. Ziegler campaigned last year with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who later appointed her to a state board that oversees Disney World.
Ziegler, a political consultant and former Sarasota County commissioner, was elected to lead the state Republican Party in February. He was seen as the candidate aligned with former President Donald J. Trump, rather than DeSantis. DeSantis has called on Ziegler to resign.
Alain Delaquérière contributed to the research.
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