After 10 years of leading the Sarasota County Republican Party, Joe Gruters was prepared to step away and give someone else the opportunity to serve as chair. And then last Tuesday Gruters, with some urging from Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, decided to run for chair of the Republican Party of Florida. Within days, Republican leaders endorsed Gruters’ candidacy. Now the person once dubbed as “Donald Trump’s Florida man” is on the verge of leading the state GOP as the President runs for reelection in 2020.
“With my background I can help unify the party and organize it in a way to make sure we deliver the 29 electoral votes for Donald Trump,” Gruters told FLA News. “Florida is a must win state and we have to do everything we can possibly do to ensure victory.”
Gruters served as co-chair of Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign, delivering a state that had voted for former President Obama the last two presidential election cycles.
That relationship with President Trump and Saturday’s formal endorsement from Gov.-elect DeSantis all but guarantees Gruters will be the next RPOF chair.
The state Republican Party chair opened up Wednesday when Blaise Ingoglia announced he would not seek a third term, despite a wildly successful 2018 cycle. Republicans now hold all but one statewide elected seat, including a newly one U.S. Senate seat, and continue to control the House and Senate.
Candidates who were preparing to run for RPOF chair have cleared the way giving Gruters, who was recently elected to the state Senate, a cake walk to the chairmanship.
The final decision comes in January with Republican county chairs, and state committee men and women from all 67 Florida counties elect the state chairman. Gruters should win strong support from the grassroots machine of the Republican Party. And while he isn’t taking the vote for granted, Gruters is excited to see DeSantis fully engaged in the state party. That’s in contrast to outgoing Governor and Senator-elect Rick Scott who disengaged with the RPOF after his choice for chair was defeated in 2015.
“It was unfortunate the party was separated over the last couple of years. It’s not any one person’s fault. The dynamic didn’t work,” Gruters said. “What we have to do is make sure we fix all of that. I think Governor DeSantis is ready to bring everyone together and the grassroots, rank and file members, are ready to have a unified party again. I hope to be one of the people to make that happen.”