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Jeb Bush

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Jeb Bush

43rd Governor of Florida
Term of office:
January 5, 1999 – present (term limited, 2007)
Lieutenant Governor: Frank Brogan (1999-2003)
Toni Jennings (2003–present)
Predecessor: Buddy MacKay
Successor: Charlie Crist
Born: February 11, 1953
Midland, Texas
Political party: Republican
Profession: Banking, Real estate
Spouse: Columba Bush
Religion: Roman Catholic

John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (born February 11, 1953), is an American businessman and politician, and the Republican forty-third Governor of Florida. He is a prominent member of the Bush family, the younger brother of President George W. Bush and the second son of former President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush.


Early years

John Ellis Bush was born in Midland, Texas, where his father was running an oil drilling company. He has been known as Jeb (taken from his initials, "JEB") since childhood.

When Bush was six years old, the family moved to Houston, Texas. He was a childhood athlete, enjoying baseball and tennis. He went to a public elementary school, but later transferred to a private school. When he was in eighth grade, his father won a seat in Congress and moved to Washington, DC. Bush stayed in Houston with another family to finish the school year, and spent most summers and holidays at the family estate, known as the Bush Compound.

He then enrolled at Phillips Andover, a private boarding school in Massachusetts already attended by his brother George. Bush made the honor roll in his first semester. He has described himself in his time there as "a cynical little turd in a cynical little school". Friends recall him as disciplined and focused, neither drinking nor gambling during a trip to Las Vegas. He did, however, enjoy an Elvis Presley concert.[1]

When Bush was seventeen, he went to León, Mexico, as part of his school's student exchange program. He spent his time there teaching English. While attending a motorcycle race, he met a local girl named Columba Garnica Gallo, whom he eventually married. Bush converted to his wife's religion, Catholicism.

Bush attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor's degree in Latin American Studies in 1973, taking only two and a half years to complete his work, and obtaining generally excellent grades. He registered for the draft, but the Vietnam War ended before his number came up.

After his early graduation, Bush married the first and only woman he had ever dated, Columba Garnica Gallo, on February 23, 1974. Their three children are George P. (recently married), John E. "Jeb", Jr. and Noelle.

Early career

Business experience in Texas and abroad

After earning his degree, Bush went to work in an entry level position in the international division of Texas Commerce Bank, which was run by Ben Love, a job he received through James A. Baker, a long time family friend and chairman of the board of Texas Commerce Bank. Love hired the new college graduate for his office, where Bush assisted in drafting much of Love's communications.

Jeb Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, a former U.S. Vice President and the 41st U.S. President. Jeb Bush returned to the states from abroad to campaign for his father in 1980.
Jeb Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, a former U.S. Vice President and the 41st U.S. President. Jeb Bush returned to the states from abroad to campaign for his father in 1980.

In November 1977 he was sent to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, in South America, to open a new operation for the bank. Bush moved his family to the foreign city and spent about two years there, working in international finance. In so doing, he earned his way into the executive program at the bank.

Bush attracted a lot of new business to the bank as a result of his effective networking in Venezuela while maintaining credit quality in an emerging market.

Bush returned to the United States to work without salary on his father's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, explaining:

"I wasn't motivated for politics, I wasn't motivated because of ideology or anything. My dad's the greatest man I've ever met or will meet; I can predict that fairly confidently. It was payback time, simple as that."

His father ultimately lost the Republican nomination for President that year, but Ronald Reagan chose George H. W. Bush to be his running mate. That fall, Bush's father was elected Vice President of the United States, and won reelection in 1984. In 1988, George H.W. Bush won the Republican Party's presidential nomination, and the election, becoming the nation's 41st president.

Business and lobbying experience in Miami, Florida

Following the 1980 presidential election, Bush and his family moved to Miami-Dade County, Florida. He took a job in real estate with Armando Codina, a 32-year-old Cuban immigrant and self-made American millionaire. Codina had made a fortune in a computer business, and then formed a new company, IntrAmerica Investments Inc., to pursue opportunities in real estate.

In 1981, his first year with Codina's new real estate venture, Bush earned $41,508. He soon became a valuable real estate salesman for Codina and helped Codina build a very successful property business in Florida.

During Bush's years in Miami, he was involved in many different entrepreneurial pursuits, including working for a mobile phone company, serving on the board of a Norwegian-owned company that sold fire equipment to the Alaska oil pipeline, becoming a minority owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, buying a shoe company that sold footwear in Panama, and getting involved in a questionable scheme to sell water pumps in Nigeria.

Because of Bush's effectiveness in Codina's property business, Codina eventually agreed to take him on as a partner in a new development business. It quickly became one of South Florida's leading real estate development firms. As a partner, Bush received 40% of the firm's profits.

Bush was also on the payroll of Cuban exile Miguel Recarey, who had earlier assisted the CIA in attempts to assassinate President Castro. Recarey, who ran International Medical Centres (IMC), employed Bush as a real estate consultant and paid him a $75,000 fee for finding the company a new location, although the move never took place, which raised questions at the time. Jeb Bush did, however, lobby the Reagan/Bush administration vigorously and successfully on behalf of Recarey and IMC. "I want to be very wealthy," Jeb Bush told the Miami News when questioned during that period. [2]

In 1990, Bush interceded with father, the president, to pardon Orlando Bosch, a Cuban exile whom Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called an "unrepentant terrorist." Bosch was released from prison and granted residency in the U.S. [3]

Civic and charitable activities

After losing a 1994 election for Governor of Florida against Lawton Chiles, Bush pursued policy and charitable interests. He started a non-profit organization called "The Foundation For Florida’s Future" which was described by some as a "think tank". Its stated mission was to influence public policy at the grassroots level. He also "volunteered time to assist the Miami Children's Hospital, the United Way of Dade County and the Dade County Homeless Trust". [4]

School Choice, a book with a foreword written by Gov. Jeb Bush.
School Choice, a book with a foreword written by Gov. Jeb Bush.

In 1996, The Foundation For Florida’s Future published a book that Bush had co-written, Profiles in Character (ISBN 0-9650912-0-1), a clear parallel to John F. Kennedy's 1955 book Profiles in Courage. The book highlighted a number of ordinary people, detailing their true stories of uncommon courage. The foundation also published and distributed policy papers, such as "A New Lease on Learning: Florida's First Charter School", co-written by Bush.[5] (PDF) Bush subsequently wrote the foreword to another book, shown at right, published by the conservative Heritage Foundation and written by Nina Shokraii Rees, School Choice 2000: What’s Happening in the States (ISBN 0-89195-089-3).

Bush co-founded the first charter school in the State of Florida: Liberty City Charter School, a grades K-6 elementary school. [6] The school is situated in Liberty City, a Miami neighborhood that was the site, in 1980, of the first major race riot since the Civil Rights era. [7] The school's co-founder, working alongside Bush as a partner, was T. Williard Fair, a well-known local black activist and head of the Greater Miami Urban League. The Liberty City Charter School still operates today as a charter school.

Personal transformation

In addition to his business, civic and honorabe charitable activities, Bush underwent a religious conversion during his early career years. At the urging of his wife, Columba, a devout Mexican Catholic, the Protestant Bush became a Roman Catholic. He and his wife belonged to the Epiphany Catholic Church in Miami for many years. Bush is also a Third Degree Knight of Columbus according to an August 3, 2004 speech his brother President George W. Bush made at the 122nd Knights of Columbus Convention in Dallas. The following is an excerpt from the speech:

"I'm proud to say that my family has contributed to your ranks. A few years ago, Governor Jeb became a Knight. And he-yes-and he recently took his Third Degree. I'll see him this weekend. His son is getting married. I'll pass on the word, aim for the Fourth."

Rather than fade into the annals of political history after his 1994 defeat for the governorship, Bush refocused and worked hard to re-establish himself. This self-described cynic's religious conversion and substantial civic involvement added different dimensions to his business background. Four years down the road, at 45 years of age, a new Jeb Bush emerged, and in 1998 became Governor of Florida.

Political career

Bush speaks Spanish fluently, in addition to English. He regularly delivers speeches in both English and Spanish due to the large number of Spanish speaking residents of Florida.

Early campaigns

Bush got his start in Florida politics as the Chairman of the Dade County Republican Party. Dade County played an important role in the 1986 election of Bob Martinez to the Governor's office. In return, Martinez appointed Bush as Florida's Secretary of Commerce. He served in that role in 1987 and 1988, before resigning once again to work on his father's presidential campaign. In 1989 he served as the campaign manager of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American to serve in Congress. He launched an unsuccessful bid for the governor's office in 1994 against incumbent Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles, losing 51% to 49%.

Governor of Florida

Jeb Bush, Governor of the State of Florida
Jeb Bush, Governor of the State of Florida

In 1998, Bush defeated Democratic opponent Lt. Governor Buddy MacKay (55% to 45%) to become Governor of Florida, after courting the state's moderate voters and Hispanics. Simultaneously, his brother George W. Bush won a landslide re-election victory for a second term as Governor of Texas, and the Bush brothers became the first siblings to govern two states at the same time since Nelson and Winthrop Rockefeller governed New York and Arkansas from 1967 to 1971.


Bush's administration has been marked by a focus on public education reform. His "A+ Plan" mandated standardized testing in Florida's public schools, eliminated social promotion and established a system of funding public schools based on a statewide grading system using the FCAT test. Bush has been a proponent of school vouchers and charter schools, especially in areas of the state with failing public schools, although to date very few schools have received failing grades from the state. One program that has seen fruition is the Florida Virtual High School, a distance-learning program that allows students in rural areas of the state to take Advanced Placement classes for college credit. However, his policies have also been driven by a firm refusal to raise taxes for education, which led Bush to oppose a ballot initiative to amend the Florida Constitution to cap growing school class sizes. Bush said he had "a couple of devious plans if this thing passes." [8] [9] Despite his opposition, the amendment passed; [10] Bush's subsequent suggestions that the amendment be repealed [11] have contributed to criticisms that he has failed to implement it in good faith. A similar concern about new expenditures has led to controversy over whether Florida has provided adequate resources to implement a subsequent voter-approved state constitutional amendment that requires a universal state-financed pre-Kindergarten program.[12]


Bush signed legislation to protect the Everglades and opposed federal plans to drill for oil off the coast of Florida. In early October, 2005 Bush attempted to strike a compromise with fellow Republicans that would allow offshore drilling in an area that stretches 125 miles off Florida's coastline and give the state legislature the power to permit drilling closer to the state's coastlines. The compromise was warmly received by some Florida Republicans and U.S. Congressmen, such as bill sponsor Richard Pombo, but has yet to be agreed upon; others including Republican U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, objected to any backtracking on the drilling moratorium.

2000 Presidential Election

Some observers have questioned whether he or Secretary of State Katherine Harris attempted to help his brother in the 2000 presidential election by tampering with the voter rolls and then certifying a controversial election, though there is little evidence to back this. Questions have been raised about Bush's involvement in the notorious "Florida Felons List" affair in which primarily black and Democratic voters who were not in fact felons erroneously were listed as ineligible to vote. Bush ignored at least one direct warning from a state computer expert that the list was flawed and should not be used. [13] Questions were also raised about the conduct of the vote count itself, which was chaotic at best--- although it should be pointed out that there were Democrats who arguably contributed to the confusion as well.

Terri Schiavo

Governor Bush was involved in the case of Terri Schiavo, a woman with massive and irreversible brain damage, who was on a feeding tube for over 15 years, and whose husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, wished to remove the tube. This move was opposed by Terry Schiavo's parents in the courts. Bush, who is pro-life, signed "Terri's Law," a law passed by the Florida legislature that permitted the Governor to keep Schiavo alive. The law was ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court on September 23, 2004. That decision was appealed to the federal courts, but on January 24, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, thus allowing the Florida court's ruling to stand. Bush took heated criticism from conservatives who were disappointed that he did not take further action to prevent Schiavo from having her feeding tube removed. [14]


Despite these critics, Bush has consistently remained popular overall in Florida — a state with more registered Democratic than Republican voters[15], and an influential and diverse number of independent swing voters, who are broadly recognized as determining the final outcome of every state election.

International trade

One of the most important goals of Bush's final two years as governor is to secure the FTAA Secretariat for Miami. Supporters of the governor believe he intends Miami to become the "Brussels of the Americas." [16]

Lieutenant Governor

Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan, a former fifth-grade teacher, principal, and superintendent, served only one term with Bush. After Brogan became a widower and then remarried, he was eager to start a new life with his second wife, so he opted not to serve a second term. Brogan was reelected to a second term in 2002 with Bush and then resigned in March of 2003. He and his new wife moved to Boca Raton, where he serves as president of Florida Atlantic University. Back in Tallahassee, a museum was named in honor of Brogan's late wife, Mary, who died June 27, 1999 of breast cancer and, like her husband, was a Florida school teacher.[17]

Following Brogan's resignation, Bush appointed former Florida Senate President and Orlando resident Toni Jennings as lieutenant governor. While serving as Senate President during Bush's first term, she had disagreed with Bush on a number of issues and people were surprised when she was appointed to the number two post.

Florida Cabinet

As governor, Bush serves as the chairman of the Florida Cabinet, a unique governmental body which provides collective governance over part of state government.

Other Organizations

Bush is a member of the National Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association.

2002 gubernatorial election

Before Bush's re-election, no Republican in Florida had ever been re-elected to serve a second term as the state's governor. In addition, there was likely no precedent for any governor to be branded by the opposition as its "Number One Target" for removal from office, as Bush was ranked in 2002. This was not merely a statewide effort to oust the Republican governor, but a much-publicized goal of the DNC and its highest leadership during the 2002 election cycle.

The Democratic primary race

Bush almost faced a female candidate, Janet Reno, in the 2002 Florida governor's race. Reno, a well-known Florida native, experienced politician, and former US Attorney General, was a favorite candidate to Florida's most liberal voters. However, a number of other Democratic candidates also wanted to become Florida's next governor, including Bill McBride. A promient litigator with Holland & Knight, and a novice candidate, McBride was favored by national Democratic Party leaders in part because of his military background — and perceived ability to attract Florida's conservative voters. Neither McBride nor Reno had any expertise in what polls showed was the top issue to Florida voters: Education.

In the ensuing Democratic primary contest (where only Democratic voters could vote, pursuant to state primary laws), circumstances surrounding the razor-thin win by Bill McBride outraged many liberal Democratic voters in South Florida. Several pundits claimed what happened was actually far more unfair than any previously alleged voting irregularities in the state's history. Some voting venues – located in Reno's urban strongholds of Broward County and Dade County, and operated by Democrats elected as county election officials – reportedly opened hours late, and then ignored Bush's Executive Order, issued at Reno's request, to stay open later to accommodate all voters. As a result of this situation, Bush subsequently used his legal authority as governor to remove Broward County's Election Supervisor, Miriam Oliphant, from office.

The 2002 election results

In the closely watched Florida governor's race that attracted national attention, Bush was re-elected in November, 2002, becoming the first Republican in the state's history to be re-elected as governor. Bush defeated Democratic challenger Bill McBride with 56% to 43%, a greater margin of victory than in Bush's 1998 campaign for the governor's office. Bush also increased the number of counties in his victory column, winning several Florida counties for the very first time.

If Bush completes his term, due to expire in January 2007, he will become only the second Florida governor to complete two full four-year terms in office, the first being Democrat Reubin O'D. Askew.

Bush made political history not only by becoming the first Republican governor to ever win re-election in Florida, but also by being the first Florida governor to select a woman, Toni Jennings, to serve as Florida's lieutenant governor. No woman had ever been appointed or elected to that high office in Florida's executive branch.

Bush is also the first state governor to hold office while having a brother simultaneously serve as the nation's president.

Political future

Bush is unable, due to term limits under state law, to seek a third term as Governor.

Some speculated that Bush would run against Florida's current Democratic senator, Bill Nelson, in the 2006 U.S. Senate election, but he did not; the Republican candidate was Katherine Harris, who lost to Nelson.

On November 9, 2004, Bush denied interest in running for president in the 2008 election. [18] Nonetheless, a website selling "Jeb 2008" presidential bumper stickers and pins opened up in 2005. [19], and in May 2006, President George Bush stated his younger brother would make a "great president." [20] Bush has consistently denied plans to run, has not established a national political action committee, and he has not set up an operation in either New Hampshire or Iowa.

Bush's appeal to Florida voters

Bush is popular among Cubans in Florida (winning 80% of the Cuban vote in 2002), and popular among non-Cuban Hispanics (56% in 2002, equaling the 56% he won statewide). As a longtime supporter of Israel, Bush also maintains a significant connection to Florida's Jewish voters. He was endorsed in his two winning governor races by a national Jewish publication, and won 44% of the state's Jewish vote in the 2002 governor's race. Many black voters support his focus on public education and parental choice in education, and a number of Black Republican clubs have risen in Florida. In his re-election in 2002, Bush surprised critics by winning the white female vote in the swing-voting battleground of Central Florida's I-4 corridor. Most recently, he has reached out extensively to Florida's Haitian community.

Bush's impact on his political party

Bush's appeal to Florida's highly diverse group of voters, along with his groundbreaking second term and success in expanding the so-called "big tent" of the Florida Republican Party, appear to have propelled him into a commanding political position. Nationwide, American conservatives appear to be positive about Bush, seeing him as committed to upholding core conservative principles. Bush strives to personally keep in touch with his base, such as when he emailed his thanks to his most devoted supporters on a conservative web site within 24 hours after winning the 2002 governor's race. Throughout his two administrations, Bush's office has touted his record of non–discrimination and rewarding merit, claiming he employs highly qualified women, blacks and other minorities more often in top-level government positions than any previous Florida governor.

Republican candidates in Florida seem to have likewise benefited from Bush's leadership, turning the state's Senate and House of Representatives into solid Republican majorities during his time in office. Outside of Florida, fellow Republican leaders throughout the country have sought Bush's aid both on and off the campaign trail. Bush's out-of-state campaign visits include Kentucky, where Republican challenger Ernie Fletcher appeared with Bush and won that state's governorship in 2003, ending a 32-year streak of Democratic governors. On the West Coast, after Democratic Governor Gray Davis was ousted in a California recall vote, Bush dispatched Florida's budget director to that state to lead an independent audit of California's budget, at the request of the state's newly elected Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bush's on-going interests

Bush has also been active in the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century, whose stated goal is to promote American global leadership.

In addition, since 2004 he has been serving a four-year term as a Board Member for the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB).

Created by Congress, this board’s purpose is to establish policy on reports examining K-12 students’ academic progress in America’s public and private schools. In 2008 Bush will be serving on the NAGB educational committee focused on Standards, Design and Methodology.

Bush as NFL commissioner

In May 2006, AP reported that Bush was privately approached to become the next commissioner of the National Football League.[21] This is said to be an interest of his, but it was unknown whether or not he would take the position. The former commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, announced that his tenure would soon be over and he is searching for replacements. "I'm flattered," Jeb Bush said May 24, 2006 of the NFL's interest, "but I'm governor of the state of Florida and I intend to be governor until I leave -- which is January 2007. And I'm not going to consider any other options other than being governor until I finish."[22] Roger Goodell eventually became the new NFL commissioner.

Electoral history

  • 2002 Race for Governor
  • 1998 Race for Governor
  • 1994 Race for Governor


External links

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Preceded by:
Kenneth H. "Buddy" MacKay, Jr.
Governor of Florida
January 5, 1999 - present
Succeeded by:
Charlie Crist (elected)
Current governors of states and territories of the United States

AL: Bob Riley
AK: Frank Murkowski
AZ: Janet Napolitano
AR: Mike Huckabee
CA: Arnold Schwarzenegger
CO: Bill Owens
CT: Jodi Rell
DE: Ruth Ann Minner
FL: Jeb Bush
GA: Sonny Perdue
HI: Linda Lingle
ID: Jim Risch

IL: Rod Blagojevich
IN: Mitch Daniels
IA: Tom Vilsack
KS: Kathleen Sebelius
KY: Ernie Fletcher
LA: Kathleen Blanco
ME: John Baldacci
MD: Robert Ehrlich
MA: Mitt Romney
MI: Jennifer Granholm
MN: Tim Pawlenty
MS: Haley Barbour

MO: Matt Blunt
MT: Brian Schweitzer
NE: Dave Heineman
NV: Kenny Guinn
NH: John Lynch
NJ: Jon Corzine
NM: Bill Richardson
NY: George Pataki
NC: Mike Easley
ND: John Hoeven
OH: Bob Taft
OK: Brad Henry

OR: Ted Kulongoski
PA: Ed Rendell
RI: Donald Carcieri
SC: Mark Sanford
SD: Mike Rounds
TN: Phil Bredesen
TX: Rick Perry
UT: Jon Huntsman
VT: Jim Douglas
VA: Tim Kaine
WA: Chris Gregoire
WV: Joe Manchin

WI: Jim Doyle
WY: Dave Freudenthal

AS: Togiola Tulafono
DC: Anthony A. Williams (Mayor)
GU: Felix Camacho
MP: Benigno Fitial
PR: Aníbal Acevedo Vilá
VI: Charles Turnbull

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