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Nick DiCeglie, Donald Trump, Joe Gruters - HD 66 endorsement

Tampa Bay

Joe Gruters backs Nick DiCeglie in HD 66 Republican primary

Republican Rep. Joe Gruters wants Belleair Bluffs businessman Nick DiCeglie to join him in the state Legislature.

The Sarasota GOP chair, who co-chaired Donald Trump’s Florida campaign, called his Pinellas counterpart a “true conservative leader” when he endorsed him over House District 66 Republican primary rival Bernie Jacques on Thursday.

“As Chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Party, Nick worked tirelessly to increase Republican voter registration and improve a grassroots operation that helped turn Pinellas County from blue to red,” Gruters said. “His help was a critical part of helping Donald Trump win Florida in 2016. In fact, President Trump and his campaign had so much confidence in his support that they selected him to be one of Florida’s 29 members of the Electoral College, where he cast a vote for Donald Trump.”

While Gruters’ endorsement isn’t from “the big man himself,” it’s about as close as you could expect for a state House race and could carry some weight among HD 66 voters, who broke plus-14 for Trump two years ago.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of Representative Joe Gruters,” DiCeglie said. “He brings a tremendous energy to our party, which proved to pay dividends in the 2016 election. He too is an ardent supporter of our President and his leadership didn’t go unnoticed as Trump named him Florida Co-Chair of his campaign. Rep Gruters and I are like minded individuals who share the same agenda as our President and his support means a great deal.”

Gruters, who is running for state Senate, joins the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Realtors, the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association, Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers, Pinellas County Clerk Ken Burke and many others in backing DiCeglie.

In addition to his leadership role in Pinellas County Republican politics, DiCeglie is the owner and operator of waste management company Solar Sanitation. That part of his resume got the spotlight in his first TV ad, where he said he outlined his plans to “clean things up in Tallahassee.”

DiCeglie and Jacques will go head-to-head in the Aug. 28 Republican primary for the open seat, currently held by term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern. The winner of that contest will face school teacher Alex Heeren, a Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Jacques, who is also on the airwaves and boasting fresh endorsements, has the advantage in the money race.

At last check in, he had raised $124,260 in hard money and another $81,100 through political committee Protect Pinellas, with about $100,000 banked between them. DiCeglie has raised $132,456 in campaign cash and had a balance of $56,000 on July 20. Heeren has raised $28,000 and has $8,300 banked.

HD 66 is a coastal Pinellas seat covering part of Clearwater as well as Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Seminole. It is a safe Republican seat that has been held by Ahern since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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