Gruters Believed in Trump From Start



Most polls showed only a narrow path for Donald Trump to win the presidency, but Joe Gruters believed. The Sarasota accountant who served as co-chair for Trump’s Florida campaign says he could tell from the energy at rallies around the state that enthusiasm for the GOP nominee simply was stronger than Democrat Hillary Clinton could inspire. “It’s a populist message,” says Gruters. “People want to be part of a winning team, and they are so sick of the tired political elitists we have in DC.” In the end, Trump won Florida, and early Wednesday, Democrat Hillary Clinton reportedly conceded the election and Trump was poised to move in to the White House.

Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota, saw a winning message before many leaders of his own party did. He drew hefty criticism in 2012 for inviting Trump to Sarasota as “Statesman of the Year” after the Republican National Committee discouraged Trump from attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa days later. It was an interesting move for Gruters, but one not completely out of step with history. Gruters in 2010 was among few Republican Party leaders in Florida to embrace Rick Scott during his upset win in the GOP primary over Attorney General Bill McCollum and later over Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

This election cycle, Gruters went a different direction than GOP leaders again. While most Republican higher-ups threw in early with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or US Sen. Marco Rubio, Gruters broke his own tradition of not endorsing in a primary and signed on as co-chair for Trump’s campaign operations in the Sunshine State. For most of the year, Trump’s state headquarters was in Sarasota. Indeed, Trump's last rally in Florida was held Monday at Robarts Arena in Sarasota.

And on Tuesday, Trump surprised most analysts, riding a wave of anti-establishment resentment to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes and, most stunningly, a string of Rust Belt states. What does that mean for Gruters? If offered a place in a Trump administration, would he leave the Gulf Coast?

The Sarasota politician won his own election Tuesday, to the state House representing parts of Sarasota and Manatee counties in District 73. A father with small children still at home, Gruters notes he also just opened his own accounting firm. “I want to help Donald Trump to be as successful as he possibly can be,” Gruters says. “You never know what can happen in life. Who knows if anything would even be offered. But my bags are packed for Tallahassee.”

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