Gruters Promises Willingness to Cast Brave Votes

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY SEP 14, 2018

Editor's Note: Part 2 of 2.

There’s multiple reasons to count Joe Gruters the favorite to win a state Senate seat in District 23 this year. He just served two years in the state House, a seat he won in the 2016 general election with 65 percent of the vote. He remains the chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota, the county making up the bulk of District 23. Republican Donald Trump won District 23 in 2016 by 14 percent, and Gruters played a major role in that, co-chairing the now-president’s Florida campaign. Plus, outgoing Republican state Sen. Greg Steube won this district by 17 percent.

But Gruters says he takes every competition seriously, and that includes the current contest with Democrat Faith Olivia Babis. While working to advance the Republican message in a number of contests, he’s also making sure his own. “I like the ability to talk about my positions,” he said.

He already knows some of the challenges of the office, and held a town hall recently on red tide. Both Gruters and Babis want to fund further study of the algal bloom. Babis says Florida is dealing with holdover from America’s former Manifest Destiny ideas. “That was control over nature as well,” she said. And she wants to see action on reducing septic tanks and cleaning up beaches. Gruters agrees, and says he’s “not afraid to make polluters pay,” but says everyone living int he state needs to be aware of their contribution to the issue.

Both candidates want to see better diversification of the economy but differ how to achieve that. Babis says she’s no great supporter of Enterprise Florida after spending controversies there, and wants to see an expansion of industries like solar power. Gruters long supported state incentives dollars and “every tool in the basket” to attract high-paying jobs here, and he also wants in schools to de-stigmatize certain high-wage professions that draw from trade schools instead of colleges.

One controversial bill Gruters supported earlier this year that may come up in any debate— the “Parkland” bill passed after a shooting at a South Florida high school. The bill drew opposition on the left and the right, and Babis said she probably would not have voted for it. “They have invested too much in armed guards in the schools and did not explicitly state tole role of those guards was for protection, not intervention in everyday school functions,” she says.

But Gruters stands by the vote. “Do you want to fully fund schools security, have teacher raises and keep guns away from crazy people?” he says. “If you say yes to those three things you can’t vote no. It’s hard for me not to call these guys cowards, on both sides of the aisle, who did.” With the exception of a few Second Amendment hard-liners like state Sen. Greg Steube, Gruters says most no votes on the measure did so for purely political reasons.

The election for state Senate District 23 is set for Nov. 6.

Photo courtesy Gruters campaign.

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