TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — High-ranking Florida Republicans say a meeting to potentially oust their embattled chairman will happen later this month. It comes as Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler remains defiant in the face of intense pressure to resign following allegations of sexual assault.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is among those wanting the chair to step down.
"I think when you have an investigation of crimes of this magnitude, I think that the mission has to come first," DeSantis said Tuesday. "It is not helpful to the mission to have this hanging over his head."
Florida's GOP chairman subject in rape investigation
To date, Sarasota authorities investigating the potential crimes have yet to file charges. And, in an email to Republicans over the weekend, Ziegler maintained his innocence.
"We have a country to save and I am not going to let false allegations of a crime put that mission on the bench as I wait for this process to wrap up," the chairman wrote.
But in the last 24 hours, Florida GOP Vice Chairman Evan Power said he received enough support to set up a special meeting on Dec. 17. Behind closed doors in Orlando, the party’s executive board is now set to consider suspending Ziegler’s pay, reducing his power, or removal.
Power said in a text to Scripps News "just doing my part as VC for the party." Ziegler, as of Tuesday evening, had yet to comment despite repeated attempts.
Florida Democrats, meanwhile, kept up the pressure during their latest news conference.
"We have one message for Christian Ziegler, resign,” Nikki Fried, leader of the FDP, said. “And to the Florida GOP, your reign is over. Don't tell us what to do in our bedrooms. Don't you dare come after the LGBTQ-plus community again, and don't lecture us about family values."
If Ziegler is removed later this month or resigns before then, Power would likely take over as interim leader.
Party officials say an election would then need to happen within 60 days to find a replacement.