The Political Price of Strange Bedfellows

Under The Hood

Photo courtesy the School Sanity Project.

A series of box trucks started driving around town this week with a picture of Bridget Ziegler across the side and the words “Stop the School Board Scandal.” The trucks debuted outside a School Board meeting this week as part of a campaign called the School Sanity Project. 

That group intends to continue challenging the personal integrity of arguably the area’s most famous school board member, before and after a scandal last year turned her and husband Christian Ziegler from power players to punchlines.

About four months into some a police investigation and some tawdry revelations, organizers for the campaign say they are just getting started. They plan to tie Ziegler’s notorious insincerity into a problem for a social conservative majority barely a year into its reign.

"We're fighting back against extremist school board members like Bridget Ziegler, who has turned the Sarasota School Board into a circus with her blatant hypocrisy and bad-faith policymaking," said Senior Advisor to the Project, Samantha Pollara. "This billboard is only the beginning of our campaign and our battle against extremists in education. Enough is enough. It's time to bring sanity back to our schools." 

It seems only fair at some point here to note Ziegler’s personal scandal doesn’t actually have anything to do with her work on the School Board, other than serving as an extraordinary juxtaposition to the moralizing policies she has helped advance. Her husband, importantly, is the only one facing any legal threat from the matter.

I won’t get into too many details in a morning newsletter. It’s an embarrassing mess, no three ways about it. 

Still, it didn’t directly involve curriculum or public spending or Black history or whether transgender people are imagining things. All those matters, indeed, have come up during her time at the dais, and many a constituent probably finds her positions equally embarrassing and outrageous. But Ziegler over three elections — two of which she won with less than 51% of the vote but more recently one she took by a landslide — had electoral mandates to back up those policies.

It seems highly unlikely she could win another term today, though in three years who knows. But the real test of the political campaign’s success won’t be the next time Ziegler faces an electorate, should that ever happen, but when he political allies stand for re-election. School Board chair Karen Rose appears on a ballot again this year. So does School Board member Tom Edwards, a long-time adversary of Ziegler’s. The clear dream scenario for School Sanity Project and many other who fought the Ziegler agenda for years would be to re-elect Edwards and drive Rose out in a rout.

No other member of the School Board had any role in Ziegler’s personal picadilloes. But they certainly helped in actions like driving a superintendent out of town with no cause whatsoever. Honestly, the push for change would have come this year regardless of the national headlines surrounding the conservative leader.

That’s why a refusal to resign her office has so upset allies and enemies alike. Truthfully, it seems increasingly likely her political foes secretly hope Ziegler never leaves the scene now. It’s anyone’s guess if she how she recovers personally or politically from the firestorm of the last few months. But the longer she stays at the dais, drawing hours of public condemnation at every hearing, the more likely it becomes that those who shared a political bed will be the ones who pay a price.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA.

Photo courtesy the School Sanity Project.

« View The Saturday Feb 24, 2024 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Read More

Abridged Timeline For Important Office

Abridged Timeline For Important Office

Jacob Ogles | Apr 13, 2024

A Vital Diagnosis of New College's Progress

A Vital Diagnosis of New College's Progress

Richard Corcoran | Apr 13, 2024

Global Meetings Close to Home

April not only brings Spring and April Fool’s Day but also marks a lesser-known yet significant occasion: Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), celebrated on April 11. This international day of advocacy highlights the invaluable contributions of business meetings, trade s

Erin Duggan | Apr 13, 2024

This Spring, Champion the Power of Pursuing a Plan

This Spring, Champion the Power of Pursuing a Plan

Jennifer Vigne | Apr 6, 2024