Florida GOP gathering to expel Christian Ziegler amid sex scandal

The party's executive committee also could decide if Evan Power or Peter Feaman takes over as state Chair.

Members of the Republican Party of Florida’s (RPOF) executive committee will convene in Tallahassee today to remove Christian Ziegler as Chair. A new leader for the party could also emerge.

Members hope to put some distance between the party and a sex scandal that has paralyzed organizing at the start of a Presidential Election year while undermining socially conservative policies championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Despite a midday Monday meeting time, party officials report no concerns about making a quorum. A short-notice meeting in Orlando last month saw the entire executive board attend and vote 39-0 to censure and sideline Ziegler as Chair. That reduced his salary to $1 and prohibited him from speaking for the party, receiving reimbursements for personal expenses or involving himself in day-to-day operations for the Florida GOP.

RPOF Vice Chair Evan Power at that point effectively took over state Chair duties, though with no salary or official title. He wants the party to elect him as the new state Chair after removing to Ziegler. His chief rival for the job, RPOF National Committeeman Peter Feaman, wants any leadership election to wait until a quarterly meeting in February, but said he’s prepared for a vote Monday.

The party scheduled Monday’s meeting at the Tallahassee Conference Center at 1 p.m.

Party members appear poised to close the chapter on Ziegler’s 11-month tenure as the titular head of the party. But even as the forced separation unfolds, it’s unlikely Ziegler, or wife Bridget Ziegler, will escape scrutiny any time soon after admitting to a prior threesome with a woman now accusing the state Chair of rape.

Unfolding scandal

All this happens as Christian Ziegler remains under active criminal accusation for sexual battery and video voyeurism. A longtime acquaintance accused Ziegler of raping her in a Sarasota apartment on Oct. 2. Ziegler maintained the sex was consensual.

But many say confessionals the Zieglers already made to police will haunt, if not end, any political ambitions for the prominent power couple. When approached by police about the accusation, court documents indicate Ziegler produced a two-and-a-half-minute video of the encounter he made on his cellphone.

Police have since obtained the video as evidence, and suggested it contradicts key portions of the victim’s account. But the video also raises questions whether he filmed the sex without the woman’s consent.

Meanwhile, the woman told police she scheduled a three-way sexual encounter that day with both Christian and Bridget Ziegler. When Christian Ziegler told her in a digital message that his wife could not attend, she told him not to come over. Surveillance video verifies he showed up minutes later anyway.

Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota School Board member and co-founder of the conservative Moms for Liberty, confirmed to police she and her husband engaged in a threesome with the woman more than a year prior. She has not been accused of any crime, but the sexual confession drew her directly into the scandal.

The Sarasota County School Board voted 4-1 calling for her to resign from elected office. Ziegler, who cast the lone dissenting vote, so far rebuffed any such calls. She also retains her seat on the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, where members of the public have publicly called for her to step aside.

She’s already parted ways with the Leadership Institute, a national conservative think tank where she worked as Director of School Board Programs. She had been training officials from across the country in Sarasota, where the Leadership has planned a long-term presence.

Christian Ziegler also works professionally as a digital marketing consultant, and his Microtargeted Media firm has worked with campaigns across the country. That means the political scandal could affect virtually every aspect of the couple’s professional lives.

But Ziegler has resisted any push away from Florida politics. He ignored all calls for his resignation as state Chair, including from every statewide elected official starting with DeSantis and including U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, the latter of whom as Governor first appointed Bridget Ziegler to the Sarasota School Board.

At the executive board meeting where Christian Ziegler faced censure, he asserted the meeting had been called inappropriately, and came with a legal opinion stating as much. He still formally holds the title of state Chair, if none of its powers. After reminding executive board members he had not yet been charged with any crime, he asserted many voting members had been convicted of drug charges and had admitted affairs, but never faced expulsion.

That could signal litigation in the future between Ziegler and the party should he be removed at a meeting today.

Looking ahead

Still, public support for Ziegler remains exceptionally low and a vote to remove him seems a foregone conclusion. Already, a campaign for the next RPOF Chair has unfolded over intervening weeks.

Power, who had been running for National Committeeman, quickly announced his candidacy for state Chair, less than a year after losing a close vote to Ziegler for the job. He quickly rallied support for the job, including from DeSantis, who as Governor appointed a number of members to the party’s executive committee.

Feaman, who already announced he would not seek another term as National Committeeman, emerged as Power’s main opponent for state Chair. John Vacchiano, Vice Chair of the state party’s Faith Mobilization Committee, also announced his candidacy to less fanfare.

Both Feaman and Power have since announced dozens of endorsements from voting members. But Feaman also raised questions over whether a vote for a new Chairman should be on a special meeting agenda. He said any leadership vote should wait until an already scheduled quarterly meeting in February. While his argument has been procedural, that notably would also give him an extra month to campaign while Power still served as Acting Chair.

Power, of note, has effectively campaigned for the role of state Chair much of the last decade. He and Ziegler both vied for the job in 2018 before a newly elected DeSantis effectively ended the contest by endorsing Joe Gruters for the role. Two years later, Power toyed with challenging Gruters but ultimately sat that contest out. In the last month, he’s received generally positive reviews leading the party in the midst of the Ziegler scandal, signaling the Leon County Republican’s moment may have arrived.

“Excited to have so many endorsements coming in to our campaign!” Power posted on social media ahead of today’s meeting. “The Republican Party is stronger when we work together. With Trump Co-chair Joe Gruters, America First Congressman Matt Gaetz, and Governor Ron DeSantis, we will keep Florida winning.”

Feaman, meanwhile, has also sought support even as he pushed for a delay in the vote. He has focused on his national connections and ability to rapidly rally fundraising in a Presidential Election year, a critical concern as the Ziegler scandal largely dried up donations.

“My mission is simple: Restore the good name and reputation of the Republican Party of Florida, previously the most admired in the country,” Feaman said in an email to members. “Raise money for the party using my national contacts gained through 12 years on the (Republican National Committee). Unify the grassroots and work with our presidential nominee to deliver a decisive victory in November.”

Any procedural questions will likely be handled at the meeting, where party members hope to quickly move past the Ziegler era. The meeting is expected to last 90 minutes, with members eager to resolve all matters before the beginning Tuesday of Florida’s Legislative Session.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704