The chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Christian Ziegler, is under criminal investigation over allegations of sexual battery, including rape, according to a complaint filed with police in Sarasota, Florida.
Ziegler’s attorney, Derek Byrd, said in a statement: “We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated.”
Ziegler and his wife are powerful figures in Florida politics. He was elected state GOP chairman in February, while Bridget Ziegler is an elected member of the Sarasota County School Board and a co-founder of Moms for Liberty, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as an extremist group. She has since left the group. (Neither Ziegler nor his wife returned a request for comment from NBC News.)
The investigation is causing tumult within the Florida GOP. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Ziegler should remove himself as chair of the state Republican Party.
“I don’t see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing, given the gravity of those situations,” the GOP presidential candidate said Thursday night.
The chair of the Florida Democratic Party, Nikki Fried, also called for Ziegler’s resignation, saying he “can’t possibly continue to lead the Florida GOP under these conditions.”
Last week, Ziegler asked Florida GOP staffers about the rules for removing a chairman — an inquiry that confused the staffers, NBC News reported.
Clarissa-Jan Lim is a breaking/trending news blogger for MSNBC Digital. She was previously a senior reporter and editor at BuzzFeed News.