Republican Joe Gruters will serve as the District 23 state senator in Tallahassee, defeating Democrat Faith Olivia Babis.
Gruters wound up with a commanding lead in both in Sarasota and Charlotte counties.
“I am incredibly grateful to serve the community I love,” Gruters said. He promises he will “fight every day” in Tallahassee to represent his constituents in Sarasota and Charlotte counties.
Gruters won with 56.48 percentage of the vote with 142,752 votes to Babis’ 110,003.
Among Gruters’ accomplishments, he served as Florida House of Representatives District 73 representative for Sarasota and Manatee counties. He has been the chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County since 2007, and served as co-chair of President Trump’s Florida campaign.
Nominated by President Trump to serve on the Amtrak board of directors, Gruters is currently awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation, his campaign website states. Serving as a state senator and on the Amtrak board isn’t mutually exclusive, he said.
Gruters told the Sun editors he believed protecting the environment was critical, but job growth and the economy topped his list of priorities. Gruters wants to fund more research into red tide and take bigger steps toward fixing the algae problems involving Lake Okeechobee.
“I knew I was in for a tough battle,” said Babis. She feels she ran a good, competitive race.
Babis works as peer mentor at the Suncoast Center for Independent Living and serves on the Citizens with Disabilities Advisory Board for the City of Sarasota.
She believes she brought to light many of the issues the disabled face. Among the issues, she campaigned for expanded Medicaid coverage and social services.
In Sarasota County, with all of its precincts counted, Gruters received 112,528 votes, 55.28 percent of the ballots cast, while Babis saw 91,021 votes, 44.72 percent of the ballots cast.
With 36 of Charlotte County’s 36 precincts within District 23 counted, Gruters received 29,379 votes, 61.49 percent of the ballots cast. Babis received 18,399 votes, 38.51 percent of the ballots cast.