TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There was increased pressure Friday for the head of the Republican Party of Florida, Chair Christian Ziegler, to step down amid allegations of sexual assault. The calls for resignation now include Florida Democrats and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
"I don't see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing, given the gravity of those situations, and so I think that I think he should step aside. I think he should tend to that," DeSantis said late Thursday evening, following a debate with Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-CA. "He's innocent until proven guilty, but we just can't have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny."
DeSantis' comments come after Sarasota Police confirmed an active investigation of Ziegler. Authorities released a heavily redacted report in which a victim alleged rape and sexual battery, happening in early October.
The Florida Center for Government Accountability first reported the allegations on Thursday. To date, no charges have been filed against the embattled GOP chair. Through his attorney, Ziegler has denied any wrongdoing.
Those with knowledge of the state party's thinking, however, told us members appreciated the "tone and tenor" of the governor and agreed with the call for Ziegler to resign. The party's "mission," they said, "needs to remain the focus."
The head of the Florida Democrats said something similar Friday morning. In a meeting with journalists, Chair Nikki Fried again pushed for Ziegler to step down and encouraged Floridians to support a petition calling for the same.
"Right now, the Republican Party is completely in shambles," Fried said. "Ziegler has a responsibility to the people of this state to put aside any issues that he has and deal with his personal life but make sure that the operations continue going."
If Ziegler decides to step down, an interim party chair would likely take over. That would presumably be Vice Chair Evan Power, who ran against Ziegler for the top spot. Party rules would require the interim chair to call for an election within 60 days to find a replacement. Neither Power nor Ziegler have responded to requests for comment.