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Close Trump Ally Joe Gruters Now Leads the Florida Republican Party

Miami Herald
Republican State Senator Joe Gruters.

Republican State Senator Joe Gruters, representing Florida's 23rd District, is the new President of the Florida Republican Party. Gruters won handidly during the annual GOP conference in Orlando last Saturday, defeating Charlotte County Republican Bob Starr.

Gruters spent more than a decade as the Chairman of the Sarasota Republican Party. He was also a 2016 electoral college member for the Republican Party and was the co-chairman of President Trump's campaign in Florida. During his election ceremony last Saturday, Gruters pledged the party would focus on getting the president re-elected in 2020.

Gruters spoke with WLRN's Luis Hernandez about the campaign strategies for the upcoming election and provided perspective on the ongoing partial federal shutdown. 

GRUTERS: Well 2019 is just all preparation, to make sure that we're ready to do battle and to make sure that we hold on to Florida for President Trump. There's no path to victory if we don't win Florida. This is basically ground zero and it's all hands on deck. It's not a six-month race or eight-month race. It's a race from today all the way through the election season and all the way through Election Day. We are going to pound the pavement. We're going to have a robust party structure that we're rebuilding right now. It's going to be a real machine by the time we're done putting things in place.

WLRN: So what's going to be different for 2020 compared to this past election season? What are you going to change?

Certainly the old chairman Blaise Ingoglia deserves a lot of credit for being able to be successful in the last couple of election cycles with the limitations that were placed on him. But now more than in the past 10 years I think we're going to be able to be united as a party across the board in terms of the legislature, the Senate, the House and the Governor, which is probably the most important thing. The top person in the state is always the ceremonial head of the party and so in our case now, Ron DeSantis is the leader of our party. We're the party of Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis and he is actively engaging. He actually helped elect me as his chairman and so he will play an active role in the party. And I think that we'll be able to have the resources we need to do the organizational structure that we need to win. That's the big difference. The unification of the party - that's goal number one to bring everybody in the same direction.

Let me move over to this issue of the government shutdown. Thousands of federal workers remain without a paycheck as this shutdown continues -- now the longest it's ever been. Where do you and the Republican Party of Florida stand on these negotiations over the shutdown and over the issue of immigration?

We support our president. We think that border security, the flow of drugs, human trafficking and just people crossing over without going through the proper channels should be stopped. People like to talk about saying they're tough on border security and they want to stop the flow of illegal immigration on both sides... The reason why people hate politicians is that there's no action and everybody talks a good game but at the end of the day nobody wants to make some of these tough decisions. This is ultimately one of those tough decisions that our country has to decide. Do we want to have borders or not? Do we want to have a country that's based on a rule of law or no? But if we do say we want a rule of law and we do appreciate America for what it is, then you have to respect its laws and the border. As a result, what I think the president's doing, although we may not be winning some of the public opinion arguments on this, I think at the end of the day the president has to make a stand. We're in full support of him doing what he thinks he needs to do and we hope that Congress over all can come together and reach resolution.

As a state Senator have you heard from any of your constituents? What are they saying about this? Are any of them impacted by this?

No, I haven't heard from any constituents impacted with the exception of one who essentially feels like they're on vacation, because they're eventually going to get back pay. Now if you're a contractor, you don't get back pay but if you're a federal government employee non-essential you do get back pay. But there are some people that do take advantage of the situation and have the ability to support themselves and their families without receiving a paycheck. I do feel bad for everybody that's going through a situation. But I hope they solve this issue and we can get behind it. With the amount of money that we spend on everything else this is a small drop in the bucket and it seems trivial that the Democrats would not want to protect the rule of law and protect America's southern border.

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.