The miles keep adding up — 8,300 and counting. Lee County, Glades County, Brevard County, Madison County. Joe Gruters is visiting them all, driving to all 67 Florida counties to campaign.
But, this time, he’s not running a campaign for someone else, as he’s done for District 13 Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key. Gruters is campaigning for himself.
“I’ve never been the guy to ask for money for myself or ask for votes for myself,” he said. “It’s interesting.”
Gruters, the chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, is one of five candidates seeking to become the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
Gruters, 33, is by far the youngest (the next youngest is 58), and Gruters sees his youth as one of his biggest assets.
“I can bridge the generational gap,” he said. “If we don’t pull in the youth, the party is going to be in trouble.”
Gruters worked his way up the ladder within the party, starting out taking its message door-to-door, then joining the Young Republicans, leading that group, running campaigns for political candidates and then eventually becoming chairman of the local party.
His experience as a campaign manager is showing. Gruters has contacted many key voters to gain their support.
The Republican Party chairman and committee members from each county will vote Jan. 15 for the new Republican Party of Florida chairman. The governor and Republican House and Senate members also have votes and choose others who get to vote as well.
Gruters has networked with Gov. Rick Scott, several state senators and key House members who have influence on many of the voters.
“You never know who will have a sphere of influence,” he said.
He’s already received a verbal commitment from five of the counties he’s visited, and he’s counting on receiving more.
Gruters has enlisted the help of several campaign veterans, including the former campaign managers for U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, Attorney Gen. Bill McCollum and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp.
If he’s elected, look for the state party to emulate the grassroots organization Gruters has cultivated in Sarasota County.
During the November election, the county generated 16% of the statewide Republican get-out-the-vote phone calls, even though only 2% of Florida’s registered Republican voters live here.
Fearful that the Democratic Party has used technology to its advantage, Gruters said he would ensure all 67 county parties are up-to-date on technology.
Under his leadership, he says the RPOF would pay for the creation of a website for all 67 counties. It would also encourage the use of e-mail lists and social media.
“We can’t expect to flip a switch and with 90 days to go (before an election) expect people to pour in,” Gruters said. “It has to be a constant process. Giving (local parties) the tools and support gets us halfway there.”
For now, the campaigning continues.
Gruters took two days off at Christmas and two days off at New Year’s — but only because he knew he wouldn’t be able to meet with anyone then.
After the New Year’s holiday, it was back in the car.
Those hours on the road are not spent listening to the radio, either. From 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., it’s a constant juggling act between phone calls, e-mails and Facebook.
The state chairmanship is serious business for Gruters.
“I want to be able to say I had an impact in my life,” he said.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in finance from Florida State University and MBA from University of South Florida
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Currently 2 Responses
- As a relative new-comer to political activism in general and the REC in particular, I didn’t realize what I was witnessing at the Republican Party of Sarasota County until I accepted the task of tracking, compiling and documenting the results of our efforts as compared to the other county REC’s, that were also RPOF phone bank centers… The difference was striking.
The volunteer, grass-roots effort, envisioned, organized and lead by Joe, produced the best results in the state as far as number of calls made; number of absentee votes returned; candidate visits and attendance at those visits and rallies; the number of email, Facebook and Twitter followers and put some $230K into local candidate campaigns.
All this was accomplished in spite of his having taken the reins of a bickering, broken and disillusioned Sarasota REC and in spite of the divisive Gubernatorial primary and the loss of some major donors that stayed with Charlie Crist.
With a clear vision, cool head and a steady hand, he is an organizer and an encourager, a motivator and a promoter who knows and lives the core conservative principles and values that true Republicans aspire to.
I'm endorsing Joe because I believe he is the hands down best candidate for the job. The difference he's been able to effect at the RPOS is bound to carry over at the RPOF, where it is, also, sorely needed.
I'm very happy to count myself among his supporters and I know he'll be a great RPOF Chairman.
- Joe Gruters is indeed the breath of fresh air in the stagnant pool of candidates for the RPOF Chairmanship. The Republican Party of Florida has been run by folks that the average registered Republican do not trust. This is the main reason these people have not donated their monies to the RPOF. As we all know at this time every dollar counts in our personal budgets.
The RPOF Executive Committee is run by folks who have king size egos. They all have their little fiefdom in their respective counties & for the life of God do not want to even remotely have their power challenged. That's why most of them are reluctant to step up & do the right thing & give up some of their individual ego's for the good of the party.
The RPOF needs what Joe Gruters represents now more than ever. He is indeed the person that can deliver the tools that will carry the RPOF to an outstanding result in the 2012 election. The RPOF Ex. Com. is filled with people that reflect a lot of Florida, i.e. senior citizens. That in itself is a wonderful thing. They are still contributing to trying to make Florida a great place. However, the simple facts are, just as each of them need some younger folks to help out with projects around their houses, the same is true for the RPOF's house.
Joe is 33 years of age & has been in the political fray since he was 14 years old. The difference between he & the other candidates is not only that he's of a different generation, but he is connected to the whole system the younger generations now have in place for communications. This generation is leading the way into the foreseeable future using technology to do things, quicker & more efficiently than ever before. Gruters will put in place a team of these young folks who have the technological skills that actually made the difference in the races they have worked on & won. Listen closely to the folks in his own Sarasota County REC. They reflect the same senior age group seen all across Florida & they have twice elected Joe to be their Chairman & have had outstanding results.
Just look at the mish mash of the 67 separate websites of each of Florida's Republican Executive Committees & indeed even the RPOF's own website. Their is no interconnectivity. The outdated "Voter Vault" system is a giant headache for every single person who tries to use it.
Joe Gruters formal business training is that of a Certified Public Accountant operating in the business environment in the field of accounting. That along with the values installed in him by his family will contribute greatly to a return of confidence by the donors who have withheld their donations. Transparency is sometimes an overworked word but that is exactly what the RPOF must do to overcome the public perception of having a layer of folks "on the take" in the higher levels of the organization.
The RPOF will have the national spotlight on them as the host for the 2012 Republican National Convention to be held in Tampa. This calls even more for a person not only with the stamina needed, but for someone who can deliver on the technology front where America is headed.
Joe Gruters is the clear choice to lead the RPOF into the critical 2012 election.
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