Robert Kaplan files to challenge Joe Gruters
Robert Kaplan at a 2018 Tiger Bay forum in Sarasota. Photo by Jacob Ogles

Robert Kaplan
The former House candidate has some ideas on addressing this pandemic.

Robert Kaplan knows running as an independent for a seat in the Legislature rarely works out.

“I know my chances of wining are slim, but at least I can put in two cents and help the community,” said the Venice nursing assistant. “That’s the only reason I’m running.”

Kaplan last week filed to challenge Sen. Joe Gruters in Senate District 23. He’s previously run before for House, first running as a write-in for an open House seat in 2014 and then for U.S. Senate in 2016. In 2018, he qualified for the ballot and ran in House District 74, losing to Republican James Buchanan.

His platform at the time was focused on water quality and preservation, matters which ultimately became the priority for virtually every candidate in Southwest Florida when red tide hit the coast.

But Kaplan’s focus these days, like nearly everybody in the country, has turned to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s like an invisible hurricane,” Kaplan said. “In Venice, in every grocery store everything is wiped out. And Gov. DeSantis took his sweet time and didn’t close us up like the President did, which is why we are in the pickle we are in.”

But Kaplan stresses he’s not running to trash anybody. He has known Gruters since 2012. “He means well,” Kaplan said. “I have no ill will toward anyone. I just want to work for the state of Florida, a state I love.”

The 64-year-old said his nursing background could be of use in a community conversation about the state’s future.

He feels schools should go ahead and commit to online learning through the end of the year, and that the state needs to look at closing travel significantly. DeSantis has put requirements on travelers from states with high concentrations of coronavirus infections to quarantine in Florida. But Kaplan would like to see the cruise industry effectively stop activity in Florida and turn boats into triage units, much as has been discussed with hotels.

Supply shortages on hygiene products like sanitizer and, yes, toilet paper, need to be addressed as well, he said.

He’d like to discuss this in forums and debates, but knows if this era of self-isolation continues, this could be an odd season for campaign functions.

“The way I see it, I hope I’m still alive for our campaign,” he said.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Lyn Blair

    April 3, 2020 at 10:59 am

    This guy says DeSantis “didn’t close us up like the president did” but in actuallity trump really didn’t do jack sh/t for weeks & weeks either. Dems were sounding alarms for weeks prior to anyone in the White house. What did trump do? He held golfed & rallies. At one of the rallies claimed dems response to the virus a “liberal hoax”. He kept saying things like only fifteen people have the virus and it will “disappear” one day. He kept downplaying the situation. Finally the other day he admitted on live television that he KNEW things were gonna get bad. He knew it the WHOLE TIME but didn’t tell people the truth because he wanted to give us “hope”. Instead of telling the truth so we can hopefully protect ourselves and NOT DIE he chose to lie to Americans. He admits how bad it is now but still hasn’t taken strong action to encourage all states to lock down. The 100,000 to 250,000 deaths is based on a model of full compliance in the U.S. Every day that passes with so many states being non compliant the death toll rises. Just last night trump brought his imbecile son in law kushner to the presser to tell us that the National stockpile isn’t for states to use during times of emergency. Um, actually that is PRECISELY what it is for. Go to and read the description for Strategic National Stockpile. It says it is “the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.” This administration is still dragging its feet getting more PPE & ventilators but they were REAL quick to order a butt ton of body bags to stuff us in. The white house is packed full of morons & shady grifters. They’re gonna get us all killed.

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