The politically connected husband of Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler is out to publicly “condemn” Republicans who did not support his wife’s recent election.
Christian Ziegler, one of the leaders of the local Republican Party, has introduced a resolution before the Sarasota Republican Executive Committee that would chastise and ban any elected Republicans from local GOP activities if they support any Democrats for office over Republicans, even in nonpartisan contests like the School Board race or city elections.
Christian Ziegler says the resolution would strengthen the party ahead of coming elections. (H-T ARCHIVE)
Ziegler’s resolution comes two months after his wife defeated Ken Marsh for the School Board seat. Christian Ziegler said current board members Caroline Zucker and Jane Goodwin, both registered Republicans, publicly supported Marsh’s election over Bridget Ziegler. Marsh is a registered Democrat, while Bridget Ziegler is a Republican.
Christian Ziegler said his wife’s race may have been his initial motivation to want to condemn Goodwin and Zucker, but he also insists there’s a bigger issue at play. He said more than being worried about November’s elections, he aims to prevent similar disloyalty to the GOP in future elections.
He said the party cannot have Republican elected officials working against candidates that Republican activists are trying to elect — and not just his wife. He said it is “almost insulting” to see Republican officeholders fighting against the candidates that GOP activists are volunteering their time to support.
“I think it is long overdue,” Ziegler said of his resolution. “And it’s going to strengthen the Republican Party.”
Bridget Ziegler said she had nothing to do with the resolution and did not know about it until Thursday, when he proposed it.
“That has nothing to do with me,” Bridget Ziegler said.
“As soon as the election was over, I turned my focus to working on policy and for the students.”
Christian Ziegler is the state committeeman for the Sarasota Republican Party, a role that makes him a key liaison between state and local party organizations. He said he did not ask for his wife’s input before drafting the resolution.
Christian Ziegler said it is not just what happened in his wife’s race that bothers him. He said Goodwin and Zucker also supported incumbent board member Shirley Brown for re-election over Helen Wolff.
Brown is a Democrat, Wolff a Republican.
“That is what really kicked it up,” Christian Ziegler said.
Christian Ziegler said his resolution could still change to an extent by the time it goes to a vote later this spring before the Republican Executive Committee.
Currently the resolution reads as follows: “The Republican Executive Committee of Sarasota County condemns any registered Republican candidate or elected official actively, publicly or financially supporting the election of any candidate other than a registered Republican in a partisan or non-partisan election in which a registered Republican is participating.”
Under Christian Ziegler’s resolution, elected Republicans who support Democrats in nonpartisan races that include Republicans would be barred from any event hosted by the Sarasota Republican Party, not allowed at Republican club meetings, stopped from visiting party headquarters and would not be supported in direct mail, phone calls or other advertisements put out by the party.
Zucker and Goodwin both said in separate interviews that they are disappointed to hear about the resolution.
“The last time I checked, the state says this is a nonpartisan race and the parties should not be so involved,” Zucker said.
Goodwin also decried Christian Ziegler’s attempt to inject partisan politics into the School Board. She said everyone is trying to move on from the election and work together and they do not need these types of resolutions to create more unnecessary division on the board.
“It only causes problems,” Goodwin said. “We don’t need that.”
She said she supported Marsh because she thought he was best qualified. But he lost and she’s now ready to work with Bridget Ziegler.
Christian Ziegler’s resolution could cause problems for other Republicans in Sarasota County because it could condemn other Republican elected officials who support Democrats in any nonpartisan race when a Republican is also running.
Over the last two years, the list of former elected officials, current office holders and big-name Republican donors who have supported Democrats in non-partisan races is lengthy. Marsh’s donors last year included developers Rex Jensen and Randy Benderson, former county commissioners Shannon Staub and Gene Matthews and ex-School Board member Kathy Kleinlein — all Republicans. Brown’s support, besides Zucker and Goodwin, included developer Pat Neal, who is considered a potential Republican candidate for the state Senate.
And in 2013, Sarasota City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell’s list of supporters included politically active downtown entrepreneur Jesse Biter, current county commissioner Paul Caragiulo, and other loyal GOP donors like Graci and Dennis McGuillicuddy, John Cox, John Colon and Charles Githler. Atwell is a Democrat who was running in a race that included Republican Richard Dorfman and Democrat Susan Chapman.
But Christian Ziegler said his goal isn’t to condemn any of those people, including the elected officials — for now. He said he will push for his resolution to only apply to future races and will grandfather in those other Republican supporters of Democratic candidates.
He said he also doesn’t want his resolution to apply to the 2013 Sarasota City Commission race because there were two seats and as long as Republicans supported Dorfman, it is OK in his mind for them to also have supported Atwell or Chapman — both Democrats whom defeated Dorfman.
Christian Ziegler said if the party adopts the rule, it will put future Republican candidates on notice that they can’t work against the interests of other elected Republicans.
“This is my job as state committeeman, to support Republican candidates and Republican values,” Christian Ziegler said.