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Sen. Anitere Flores in Joe Gruters corner.

Miami Sen. Anitere Flores is backing Sarasota Republican Chairman Joe Gruters in the crowded (and nasty) race for Republican Party of Florida chair. A number of other current and former senators are also in Gruters corner, such as Senate Pro Tem Mike Bennett and Sen. Steven Wise (full list and press statement is below**) 

Flores' endorsement isn't too much of a surprise. Gruters is drawing support from young, up-and-coming Republicans and Flores fits the description to a T as she rises in power and stature in her first year serving in the Florida Senate, where she serves as Republican whip. Today, she kicks off three days of hearings into immigration reform, a potentially thankless and politically explosive task.

Flores was tapped last month by Senate President Mike Haridopolos to sit on the Republican Executive Committee along with nine other senators (list here). Outgoing chair and current Sen. John Thrasher, though, appears to be leaning toward Deb Cox-Roush, whom he introduced to Haridopolos prior to the Christmas holidays.

Here's some background on all the shenanigans, etc. in the race for chair and the party itself. **Here's the announcement:

**Joe Gruters announces the endorsements of Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton), Senate Majority Whip Anitere Flores (R-Miami), Senator Steve Wise (R-Jacksonville) and former Senators Tim Deratany (R-Orlando), Lisa Carlton (R-Sarasota), and Pat Neal (R-Bradenton).

“We need Joe Gruters’ bold, innovative, conservative leadership at the RPOF,” said Senate Majority Whip Anitere Flores. “Joe’s just the leader our party needs to build a sustaining majority.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett explained, “The RPOF needs a leader like Joe Gruters.  His proven experience running campaigns, raising funds, and communicating our conservative message will be an asset as RPOF Chairman.”

 “Joe Gruters is a trusted conservative and proven leader,” said Senator Steve Wise. “Joe’s authentic conservatism, devotion to the grassroots, and clear direction for our party is a refreshing change.”

 Senator Lisa Carlton, former State President Pro Tempore commented, “Joe Gruters’ has the experience and energetic leadership Florida Republicans have been waiting for.  He’s a solid conservative and a unifying leader who will lead the GOP to victory in 2012.”

Former Senator Tim Deratany said, “Joe Gruters is a breath of fresh air for the RPOF.  He’s a successful REC Chairman, businessman, fundraiser and campaign manager.  There could be no better choice to help rebuild the RPOF than Joe Gruters.”

 Pat Neal, former State Senator and Chairman of the Christian Coalition of Florida stated, "Gruters’ abilities to raise funds, communicate to voters, as well as expand and excite our base are desperately needed in Tallahassee.”

 Joe Gruters is the Chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota (RPOS). Traditionally, Sarasota County is a “swing county” where Republicans struggled in the 2006 and 2008 cycles.  As Chairman, Joe used his 17 years of experience raising millions of dollars and managing campaigns to improve the RPOS.  As a result, Republicans were victorious in every single race in Sarasota County. Additionally, RPOS was the top performer in the state in turnout, GOTV efforts, absentee ballot returns, volunteer coordination, and new media outreach.

 An accountant by trade, Joe Gruters pledges to institute fiscal controls within the Republican Party of Florida. As RPOF Chairman, Joe will focus on fundraising, communications, and ensure that each and every county in the state is equipped with the proper training and tools to build a permanent majority.