A former chair of the Republican Party of Florida who suffered political consequences in 2023 for being too close to Donald Trump now appears likely to have a key role in 2024 on the national stage.
Sen. Joe Gruters won a close election over James Campo at the Republican Party of Florida’s meeting Saturday in Wesley Chapel to be the new RNC National Committeeman from Florida.
Gruters got 107 votes, with Campo getting 100.
“Congratulations to our former chairman, Senator Joe Gruters, on being elected to serve as @GOP national committeeman. We look forward to his continued success serving on the national level,” the state party announced after the vote.
“Looking forward to working with him on the RNC,” added Chairman Evan Power.
Donald Trump weighed in supporting Gruters back in January.
“Florida State Senator Joe Gruters of the Great State of Florida was one of the very first Patriots to join the MAGA Movement that puts America First,” Trump wrote.
He praised Gruters’ leadership of the Republican Party of Florida from 2019 to 2023. During that time, Trump won Florida’s electoral votes, one of the only states in the 2020 election where the Republican’s share of the vote went up.
“As Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, Joe delivered massive and historic victories across the State,” Trump posted. “Joe is a ‘rockstar’ when it comes to Securing our Borders, Keeping our Communities Safe, and Promoting an America First Agenda. Joe will make an incredible National Committeeman, and he has MY COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT.”
Gruters had suffered political consequences for not backing DeSantis for President in 2023’s budget, where items that made it through the legislative process were casualties of the Governor’s veto pen.
The most notable local veto was for University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus. DeSantis killed $20 million earmarked for a STEM nursing facility, one of the biggest single projects felled by the Governor.
But the vetoes didn’t stop there. DeSantis nixed $4 million for an expansion of Fruitville Road. He killed $1.5 million designated for the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.
The vetoes also included $1 million to reopen Midnight Pass, a controversial environmental project Gruters made a priority this Session.
Also lost in the shuffle was $1 million to replace aerial pipes at Alligator Creek, a significant project headed up by Sarasota County.
Additionally, Sarasota lost out on $800,000 for improvements to Whitaker Bayou and Hudson Bayou. The Sarasota Academy of the Arts had $600,000 in the budget for a campus expansion that won’t happen anymore. The same goes for $250,000 for the City of Sarasota as it reverts part of a golf course to a nature preserve, the Bobby Jones Nature Park.
DeSantis also extinguished $500,000 for a Venice fire station.
Gruters also represents Manatee County, which lost out on $1.1 million in expected funding for its public transit service to make route enhancements.
The last year marked one of the first times in more than a decade that Gruters didn’t play a leadership role at the state or local level in Republican politics. After deciding not to seek another term as state Chair, he made an unsuccessful run for Republican National Committee Treasurer, but then stepped back from party politics.
Meanwhile, he was succeeded as state Chair by Christian Ziegler, who was removed amid a sex scandal earlier this month. Leon County Republican Chair Evan Power was then elected as the new state Chair, and announced he was ending his own bid for National Committeeman.
A.G. Gancarski and Jacob Ogles contributed reporting.