TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said state Republican Party Chairman Christian Ziegler should resign while police investigate a rape allegation against him.
Ziegler hasn't been charged, but the investigation comes as the 2024 election heats up. DeSantis is 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.
“He’s innocent till proven guilty, but we just can’t have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny,” DeSantis told reporters Tuesday night after appearing with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Fox News, according to a transcript provided by the DeSantis campaign. “The mission is more important.”
DeSantis said Ziegler and his wife Bridget, a co-founder of Moms for Liberty, have been friends, but the allegations are too serious for Ziegler to stay in the position. He said he wasn't aware of the investigation until news reports on Thursday. The Florida Center for Governmental Accountability was the first to report on the investigation.
Ziegler's attorney has said he will be exonerated, but otherwise wouldn't discuss the case.
The police report was filed Oct. 4 about an incident two days earlier in a private home.
Ziegler took over the party in February, three months after DeSantis was reelected in a landslide in an election where Florida was one of the few bright spots for Republicans nationally.
The Zieglers are a Republican power couple in Sarasota. Bridget Ziegler is on the 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.
DeSantis appointed Bridget Ziegler to a state-created board to oversee development on Disney World property. DeSantis stripped Disney of its ability to self-govern 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.