1. Breaking News

Trump turns to 'disrupter' as Florida campaign chairman

Published Oct. 23, 2015

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump is turning to a Sarasota Republican with a long history of angering establishment Republicans and breaking with Jeb Bush to lead his campaign in Florida. And he is picking up the former campaign manager for Gov. Rick Scott's first campaign to be the co-chair of the campaign.

Trump will name Sarasota Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters as his state chairman today, hours before Gruters is expected to introduce the real estate mogul at a rally in Miami. Trump will name Susan Wiles, Scott's 2010 campaign manager, as the co-chair.

"My message is clearly resonating in Florida," Trump said. We have tremendous support from so many great people in the state. I am proud to watch that support grow, to see our team expand and to be leading in the polls here."

In Gruters, Trump has a rare Republican in the GOP establishment who has never been afraid of splitting with state and national Republicans.

- In 2012 when the Mitt Romney presidential campaign left Trump out of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Gruters created a national stir when he invited him into nearby Sarasota on the eve of the convention. Gruters rallied an audience of more than 1,000 people and gave Trump the local party's "Statesman of the Year" award.

- In 2010, two months after Bush and much of the GOP establishment endorsed then-attorney general Bill McCollum for governor, Gruters hosted eventually winner Gov. Rick Scott at what was then the biggest campaign rally Scott has received in his campaign. The event made Gruters one of Scott's most trusted allies early in his political career.

- In 2005, when much of the Sarasota Republican rallied around Bush ally Tramm Hudson for Congress in Sarasota and Manatee, Gruters signed on with Vern Buchanan, the Republican who positioned himself as the outsider candidate and eventually won the primary and has been in Congress since.

But Gruters, a 38-year-old accountant, also represents a small piece of the establishment given that he is the Republican Party of Florida's vice chairman and is also a member of the Florida State University Board of Trustees. Twice Gruters has been in the running to be the state Republican Party of Florida chairman.

Gruters said he doesn't go out trying to make waves in the GOP, he just happens to be "a disrupter by nature" he said.

Trump has been enamoured with Gruters since the 2012 event in Sarasota. He said back then that Gruters was just relentless in trying to get him to speak in Sarasota.

"This Joe is some piece of work," Trump said then.

Since then, Trump has sent Gruters at least $10,000 to help the Sarasota Republican Party and returned to Sarasota earlier this year to hold another rally, this time one with 1,600 people


  1. Less than a month after being fired, former St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Tony Love wants the agency to give him a job running its development nonprofit at the same $157,000 salary. That offer, part of ongoing negotiations over his severance, was rejected by the agency's board.
    Tony Love’s attorney tells the agency that fired him he wants full salary and benefits through 2020. The board rejects his offer.
  2. Pasco firefighter Hunter Garcia, his wife Kayla and their 5-month-old daughter Clara were injured in a four-vehicle collision Friday afternoon. The baby died from her injuries Sunday; Garcia has been released from the hospital while his wife is still recovering. Pasco County Fire Rescue
    Clara Garcia, 5 months old, was secured in her car seat at the time of the four-vehicle crash. Her parents are recovering from their injuries.
  3. Tampa police found Donta Allen, 33, in the area of E Palifox Street near N 44th Street at about 9 p.m. Sunday. He was suffering from upper body trauma and died later in a hospital. [TAMPA POLICE DEPARTMENT]  |  Tampa Police Department
    Police are seeking information from anyone who may have seen Donta Allen, 33, on Sunday night near the Tampa office center.
  4. Alex Hiscock, 25, left, and Derrick Beers, 23, were riding in a pickup truck Sept. 8 after a night out when it crashed into a tree. Beers died from his injuries. Hiscock was taken to a hospital in serious condition. He was later released with a neck brace and arm cast. [COURTESY OF ALEX HISCOCK]  |  Alex Hiscock
    One man died and his best friend was seriously injured. A week later, troopers are trying to determine who was at the wheel.
  5. Josh Hensley was known for dressing as Jack Sparrow. Facebook
    Joshua Hensley, 43, was found dead Monday morning. He went missing after setting out on a paddle board Saturday.
  6. Frank Joseph Fischer, 35, was arrested early Monday after he plowed into the back of a motorcyclist on Interstate 75 in Gibsonton, then kept driving, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The motorcyclist, a 23-year-old Riverview man whose name was not immediately released, died at the scene. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office] Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    Frank Joseph Fischer, 35, was charged with DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene after driving his pickup into the back of the motorcycle, troopers said.
  7. Danielle Harris of Pinellas Park leans against a large photo of Terri Schiavo and her mother, Mary Schindler, during a vigil outside the Woodside Hospice Villas in 2003. Associated Press
    “Terri Schiavo is now a martyr,” one then-state representative said upon learning of her death.
  8. Check for the latest breaking news and updates.
    Charges in the accident are pending.
  9. Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, posted this photo and open letter to Judge Thomas Palermo to her Instagram account on September 10, the day after she lost custody of her 4-year-old son Noah McAdams. The boy's parents wanted to treat his leukemia with natural health care remedies instead of chemotherapy. [Instagram] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Instagram
    The couple refused chemotherapy for their son, instead seeking alternative treatments including dietary plans, alkaline water and THC and CBD oil treatments
  10. Check for the latest breaking news and updates.
    His infant daughter suffered life-threatening injuries, officials said.