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Presidents' Children: Jeb Bush

I thought it would be fitting to end this series with a child of a president who is a current frequent flyer in the news these days, and a man who may one day soon, sit in the President's chair in the oval office. I am of course referring to John Ellis Bush, better known as "Jeb" Bush, the former Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007 and the second son of former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, as well as the younger brother of former President George W. Bush.



Jeb Bush was born in Midland, Texas on February 11, 1953. When he was six years old, his family relocated to the Tanglewood neighborhood of Houston, Texas. He attended Grady Elementary School in Houston and in the fall of 1967, at age 14, he followed a family tradition and began attending high school at the Andover, Massachusetts boarding school Phillips Academy Andover. At high school he was disciplined for receiving poor grades and for smoking marijuana, but he pulled up his socks and made the honor roll by the end of his senior year. He also served as captain of the tennis team. At the age of 17, he taught English as a second language and assisted in the building of a school in the village of Ibarrilla in Mexico as part of Andover's student exchange summer program. It was in Mexico where he met his future wife, Columba Garnica de Gallo.

Bush registered for the draft for the Vietnam War after his graduation from high school in 1971, but he was not selected.

Bush attended the University of Texas at Austin where he played on the Texas Longhorns varsity tennis team in 1973. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from the University of Texas with a B.A. in Latin American Studies. He became fluent in Spanish. After completing college he tool an entry-level position in the international division of Texas Commerce Bank. In November 1977, he was sent to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to open a new operation for the bank, where he served as branch manager and vice president.

Following the 1980 presidential election, when his father became Vice-President. Bush and his family moved to Miami-Dade County, Florida. He took a job in real estate with Armando Codina. Codina had made a fortune in a computer business, and then formed The Codina Group, the company that Jeb worked for. Codina eventually made Jeb Bush his partner in a new development business, which quickly became one of South Florida's leading real estate development firms.

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 project selling water pumps in Nigeria.

Jeb Bush volunteered for his father's campaigns in 1980 and 1988. He got his start in Florida politics as the Chairman of the Dade County Republican Party in the mid-1980s and helped in the 1986 election of Bob Martinez to the Governor's office. 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. Bush ran unsuccessfully for the Florida Governor's office in 1994 against incumbent Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles. He lost the election by only 63,940 votes out of 4,206,076 that were cast for the major party candidates. In the same election year, his older brother, George, was elected Governor of Texas. Following his election loss, Bush joined the board of the Heritage Foundation and continued to work with Codina Partners.

In 1998, Jeb Bush ran once again for Governor of Florida and this time he defeated his Democratic opponent, Lieutenant Governor Buddy MacKay, by over 418,000 votes. In the same year, his brother, George W. Bush won a 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. In the 1998 election, Jeb Bush picked up 61 percent of the Hispanic vote and 14 percent of the African American vote, a surprising showing for a Republican.

As Governor, his "A+ Plan" established tough standards in schools, required testing of all students, and graded all Florida schools. From 1998 to 2005, reading scores of 4th grade students in Florida on the National Assessment of Educational Progress increased 11 points, compared to 2.5 points nationally. He established the McKay Scholarship Program which provides vouchers for students with learning disabilities to attend a school of their choice. He also established the A+ Opportunity Scholarship Program which provided vouchers to students. This program was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006.

Bush was responsible for creating the Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship which provides corporations with tax credits for donations to Scholarship Funding Organizations if they spend 100% of the donations on scholarships for low income students.

In higher education, Bush approved three new medical schools during his tenure and also put forth an initiative that ended affirmative action admissions programs at state universities. These moves led the faculty of the University of Florida to deny Bush an honorary degree, while the University of Florida Alumni Association made him an honorary alumnus. As Governor, he reduced taxes by $19 billion, reduced the size of state government by 6.6 percent, and vetoed $2 billion in new spending. He increased the state's reserves from $1.3 billion to $9.8 billion and presided over Florida receiving the highest possible bond rating for the first time.

In May 2006, as part of a $448.7-million line-item veto of state funding, Bush cut a total of $5.8 million in grants to public libraries, pilot projects for library homework help and web-based high-school texts, and funding for a joint-use library in Tampa. He eliminated civil service protection for over 16,000 state jobs, which made it easier to fire employees in those positions. He signed legislation to restore the Everglades as part of an $8 billion project in conjunction with the federal government.

As Governor, Bush supported more than a dozen new protections for gun owners. In 2005, Bush signed into law Florida's stand-your-ground law, which was the first such state law in the United States.

Bush argued against legal protections based on sexual orientation. In 2004 he wrote:

"The public policy question is whether homosexuals deserve special legal protection, or, to put it another way, should sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion? My answer is No. We have enough special categories, enough victims, without creating even more."

Bush oversaw 21 executions as Governor and he never agreed to commute any sentence. He also presided over switching from electric chair to lethal injection as the method of capital punishment in the state, following the botched electrocution of Allen Lee Davis. However Bush suspended all executions in Florida on December 15, 2006, after the execution of Ángel Nieves Díaz, which took 37 minutes to complete, and required a second injection of the lethal chemicals.

Bush was involved in the Terri Schiavo case, involving a woman with massive 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 Terri Schiavo's parents in the courts. Bush signed "Terri's Law", legislation passed by the Florida legislature that authorized him, as Governor, to keep Schiavo on life support. The law was ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court on September 23, 2004. That decision was appealed to the federal courts. On January 24, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, thus allowing the Florida court's ruling to stand.

While Governor of Florida, Bush supported a law requiring parental notification for teen abortions and requested that the courts appoint a guardian for the fetus of a mentally disabled woman who had been raped.

In 2004, Bush supported an unsuccessful bill to allow illegal immigrants to be issued drivers licenses by the state.

Bush was governor when his brother George W. Bush won an intensely fought election recount in Florida to become President. Jeb Bush recused himself from any official role in the recount.

Bush won re-election to a second term as governor in 2002 by defeating Democratic challenger Bill McBride with 56% to 43%, a greater margin of victory than in 1998.

When his term as governor ended, Bush joined Tenet Healthcare's board of directors in 2007. As of 2014, Bush had received more than $2 million from his work for Tenet, a company that expected to receive $100 million in new earnings in 2014 because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In May 2006, Bush was privately approached to become the next commissioner of the National Football League. The former commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, announced that his tenure would soon be over and he was searching for replacements. Because his term as Governor did not end until January 2007, he refused, saying "I'm not going to consider any other options other than being Governor until I finish."

In 2008, Bush indicated that he was considering running in the 2010 U.S. Senate race for the seat being vacated by Mel Martinez, who announced that he would retire at the end of his term. But in January 2009, he announced that he would not run for the Senate. Instead, he supported Marco Rubio for the position.

Throughout 2009 and 2010, rumors abounded that Bush would attempt to win the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election—rumors that he strongly denied.



On December 16, 2014, Bush announced via Facebook that he would be "actively exploring" a 2016 run to become President of the United States and at the end of the year resigned several corporate boards. In February 2015, Bush released several thousand emails from his time as Governor online. Earlier this month, it was reported that Bush has been raising money since January 2015, estimated to be close to $100 million, for his super PAC, Right to Rise.

Bush and his wife Columba have three children: George Prescott Bush (born April 24, 1976), Noelle Lucila Bush (born July 26, 1977) and John Ellis Bush, Jr.(born December 13, 1983). They have four grandchildren; two through his eldest son, and two through his youngest. In 1995, Bush converted from Episcopalianism to Roman Catholicism. In 2004, Bush became a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus.

Bush served from 2012 to 2015 as co-chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. He has also worked with The James Madison Institute, a free market public policy think tank based in Tallahassee, Florida. Bush co-founded the first charter school in the State of Florida: Liberty City Charter School, a grades K-6 elementary school. The Liberty City Charter School was closed in 2008 after falling more than $1 million in debt. In 2000, Bush established the Points of Light program to recognize an "exemplary volunteer, organization, or person". Bush is the honorary chairman of the Annual AT&T Jeb Bush Florida Golf Classic, a fundraiser that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Tags: 2016 election, george h. w. bush, george w. bush
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