Florida Republican leaders vote to strip authority from party chairman accused of rape

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Republican Party of Florida on Sunday voted to functionally strip all power from current Chairman Christian Ziegler, who is under criminal investigation for allegations of sexual assault, including rape.

The vote came during an emergency meeting of the Florida GOP’s state executive committee in Orlando, a gathering that was called as the Sarasota Police Department investigates allegations Ziegler raped a woman in early October in her Sarasota apartment.

Ziegler did not respond to a request seeking comment. He has not been formally charged and has denied any wrongdoing.

The party leaders voted to make Ziegler’s salary $1 and strip him of most of his power as chairman, transferring that authority to current Vice Chair Evan Power. The party was unable to vote to oust Ziegler during the Sunday meeting, but plans on doing so formally next month.

“Today the Republican Party of Florida took a step to hold our chairman accountable for his action,” Power said. “We will follow through in removing him from power, but I implore Chairman Ziegler to do the right thing and resign.”

Nearly every major Florida Republican, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, has called on Ziegler to resign, but he has so far resisted. In a letter to party leaders earlier this month, he called the allegations “false,” and he’s been taking counsel from former Trump administration officials Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski, who have encouraged him to fight the ouster. Lewandowski has worked on political campaigns with Ziegler in the past.

During the nearly two-hour meeting in Orlando, which was closed to the public, Ziegler argued to remain in the position, making the case that he should not be punished and he can continue to work to boost party fundraising.

“Christian pushed back today and tried to justify to the board that if he was able to pull through that he would have donors who could help, which I thought was pretty tasteless,” said Michael Thompson, who chairs the Republican Party of Lee County. “It was very egotistical.”

The investigation by the Sarasota Police Department is focused on rape allegations brought by a woman whom Christian Ziegler and his wife, Bridget Ziegler, had known for 20 years, according to a search warrant affidavit. The couple were planning on having a consensual sexual encounter with the accuser, but the woman tried to cancel when she was informed Bridget would not be there, the affidavit said. Christian still showed up at her apartment and allegedly raped the woman, the affidavit said.

Sarasota police have not confirmed or denied the authenticity of the affidavit, was first reported by the Florida Center for Government Accountability and shared with NBC News.

Bridget Ziegler, co-founder of the conservative group Moms for Liberty is not accused of wrongdoing but has had to resign her post as a director for the Liberty Institute, which trains conservative political candidates. And the Sarasota County School Board, of which she is a member, last week passed a resolution calling for her resignation.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com