It’s been just a week since Christian Ziegler, chair of the Florida GOP, was accused of raping a woman who was involved in a sexual encounter with him and his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder and Sarasota school board member Bridget Ziegler. Prominent Florida Republicans wasted no time in calling for Christan Ziegler to resign, which he has so far refused to do. Now, his wife is suffering from the consequences as well.
On Wednesday, the Daily Beast reported that the Leadership Institute, the conservative political training group where Bridget Ziegler works as a vice president, had removed her profile from its website; the group later confirmed that she had stepped down. Later that day, Sarasota school board chair Karen Rose, a conservative, said in a statement that she planned to ask Bridget to resign from the board. “I am shocked and deeply saddened by the conduct and deplore the salacious news coverage,” she wrote. “I personally care about Bridget and her family and deeply regret the necessity for this course of action, but given the intense media scrutiny locally and nationally, her continued presence on the Board would cause irreparably harmful distractions to our critical mission.”
Rose said she planned to officially call for Ziegler’s resignation at the school board meeting scheduled for December 12. If she does resign, this will mark the end of Ziegler’s notoriously influential tenure, during which she pushed through an agenda that sought to rid schools of books and curricula that were inclusive of LGBTQ people. In a Facebook post last week, the day before news of the scandal broke, she boasted that she had “terminated gender diverse guidelines,” “eliminated equity committee,” and “eliminated equity policy & position.”
She was able to accomplish these goals by remaking the board to reflect her own political perspective. Last year, Ziegler led a successful campaign to recruit more conservative members, flipping the board’s majority from Democrat to Republican. She capitalized on that victory to secure her job at the Leadership Institute, where she trained prospective conservative school board candidates from across the country.
Ziegler participated in sessions about school board campaigns at both of the Moms for Liberty annual conferences that I attended. As the group rose to prominence, it became clear that school board elections were a powerful entry point for conservative voters. In 2021, when he was Florida’s GOP vice chair, Christian Ziegler praised Moms for Liberty in a Washington Post article. “I have been trying for a dozen years to get 20- and 30-year-old females involved with the Republican Party, and it was a heavy lift to get that demographic,” he said. “But now Moms for Liberty has done it for me.”
Bridget Ziegler has admitted that she participated in a sexual encounter with Christian and his accuser last year, but she was not involved in the alleged sexual assault. Christian has denied the assault allegations.
Even before Rose called for Ziegler’s resignation from the school board, Sarasota social media forums were filled with people pointing out the contradiction of Bridget’s involvement with the bisexual sex scandal while also having been instrumental in drafting Florida’s famous “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, which forbade discussion of LGBTQ issues in many school settings. On Wednesday, one member of a Sarasota Reddit forum noted the irony, writing, “Because of the Zieglers and all the gossip they’ve evoked around school, my elementary-aged kids now know about swinging and threesomes.”