Richard Corcoran

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Richard Corcoran
Corcoran in 2011
27th Education Commissioner of Florida
In office
January 8, 2019 – May 1, 2022
GovernorRon DeSantis
Preceded byPam Stewart
Succeeded byManny Díaz Jr.
100th Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
In office
November 22, 2016 – November 20, 2018
Preceded bySteve Crisafulli
Succeeded byJosé R. Oliva
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
In office
November 2, 2010 – November 6, 2018
Preceded byTom Anderson
Succeeded byArdian Zika
Constituency45th district (2010–2012)
37th district (2012–2018)
Personal details
Richard Michael Corcoran

(1965-03-16) March 16, 1965 (age 59)
Toronto, Canada
Political partyRepublican
EducationSaint Leo University (BA)
Regent University (JD)

Richard Michael Corcoran (born March 16, 1965) is an American politician who was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.[1] A Republican, Corcoran represented the 37th district, which includes central Pasco County, from 2012 to 2018, and previously represented the 45th district from 2010 to 2012. From 2019 to 2022, Corcoran was the state's education commissioner. In 2023, he became president of the New College of Florida.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Canada, Corcoran grew up in Pasco County, Florida, where his family moved when he was 11. His parents were both veterans of World War II. His father was an American soldier in the U.S. Army and his mother, a daughter of a British tea-planter, served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force of the Royal Air Force during the London Blitz.

Corcoran dropped out of University of Florida.[3] He later attended St. Leo College, graduating in 1989, and Regent University, where he received his Juris Doctor in 1996.[4] While enrolled in college, he served six years in the United States Naval Reserve (1987–1993).[5]

Political career[edit]

Corcoran's first job after college was with Rep. John Renke of New Port Richey, who was poised to be Florida House minority leader before his defeat to Democrat Phil Mishkin in a race orchestrated by House speaker and future FSU president T. K. Wetherell.[6] He then worked as a legislative aide for his friend Paul Hawkes, representative in the Florida House from 1990 to 1994.[7] Corcoran ran the 1994 campaign that took Mike Fasano, later Majority leader and Senate President, to the Florida House for the first time. Between 1996 and 1998, he was deputy to Daniel Webster, the first Republican House speaker in a century.[8]

In 1998, Corcoran ran and lost his first House race to Nancy Argenziano.

Corcoran was admitted to the Florida Bar on September 21, 1999, three years after completing law school.[9]

He worked as outside counsel for former House Speaker Tom Feeney in 2002.[8]

Chief of Staff to Marco Rubio (2006–2010)[edit]

In 2006, Corcoran worked for candidate Marco Rubio, where he was involved in writing and promoting Rubio's political tract 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future.[3] After that year's election, he became chief of staff to the new House Speaker. He resigned to prepare for a 2007 state Senate by-election but dropped out prior to the general election.[8][10] Corcoran was hired by future governor Rick Scott to do legal work for Solantic.[8]

When Corcoran was chief aide to Marco Rubio, his spending of Republican Party of Florida funds drew scrutiny[11][12] and spending on flights, hotels, and restaurants from party funds in 2015 and 2016 also drew critics.[13] Corcoran rejected suggestions that the spending (such as an $8,000 meal at The French Laundry in Napa Valley) was excessive.[14]

Florida House of Representatives (2010–2018)[edit]

When incumbent state representative Tom Anderson was unable to seek re-election due to term limits in 2010, Corcoran ran to succeed him in the 45th District, which included parts of southern Pasco County and northern Pinellas County.

During his election, Corcoran secured promises from fellow Republican representatives to elect him speaker for the 2016–2018 legislative session. His leading rival for the position was fellow freshman representative Matt Gaetz. At the time, he released an 80-page reform manifesto entitled Blue Print Florida.[15]

In 2011, he was hired as counsel at the Tampa offices of the law firm Broad and Cassel.[16]

When the state legislative districts were redrawn in 2012, Corcoran was drawn into the 37th District, which included some of the areas in Pasco County that he represented in the 45th District. Corcoran faced a challenge from Strother Hammond in the Republican primary.[4] He was endorsed for re-election by The Tampa Tribune.[17] Corcoran defeated Hammond, gathering nearly 84% of the vote. Corcoran was subsequently re-elected without opposition in both 2014 and 2016.[4]

During his time as representative, he led an effort to oppose Medicaid expansion. He criticized Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.[3]

Following his 2016 election, Corcoran became speaker of the Florida House of Representatives for the 2016–2018 legislative session.[18][19] Orlando Weekly wrote that as House leader, Corcoran had the "pugnacious manner and determination that have become his hallmarks."[20] In 2017, Senator Jack Latvala said, "I've been up there [at the Florida Legislature] 22 years, and he has flat picked more fights with more people than anybody I've ever seen before."[3] In 2018, he described the Florida teachers' union as "disgusting", "repugnant", and "downright evil".[21] In a 2017 profile recounting his shouting and cursing, Corcoran told a reporter, "I'm the most disruptive person."[3]

In January 2018, Corcoran stated that between 2007 and 2018, he witnessed "probably less than ten" legislators engaging in sexual harassment and misconduct in the Florida legislature. Corcoran stated in the article, "I did report, I did talk to the legislators involved and it was resolved," Corcoran said, adding later that "to the extent that there was a violation, that violation needed to be addressed, and it was addressed. And the behavior was curbed." Corcoran stated that these incidents happened before he became speaker. When he became speaker, the House imposed stricter sexual harassment rules for its members in 2016. In the same article, it was reported that "Corcoran has been the most outspoken Republican in the Florida Capitol denouncing sexual misconduct, especially in the Florida Senate."[22] Two months later, in March 2018, Corcoran called out the Florida Senate for endangering legislation to crack down on sexual harassment. "How does a chamber that was caught up in that much scandal not take up sexual harassment?" Corcoran told POLITICO, referring to two state senators who resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct. Corcoran was the first top GOP legislative leader to speak out last year[when?] over sexual harassment.[23]

In January 2018, Corcoran's PAC Watchdog USA began airing ads as he explored a run for governor.[24] In April, before officially announcing a run, his candidacy was endorsed by Matt Gaetz.[25] Ultimately, Corcoran endorsed Adam Putnam in the race,[26] which was won by Ron DeSantis.

Education Commissioner of Florida (2018–2022)[edit]

On December 6, 2018, Governor-elect of Florida Ron DeSantis announced he would nominate Corcoran to be education commissioner. Corcoran was unanimously confirmed as education commissioner by the Florida Board of Education on December 17, 2018, and took office on January 8, 2019, upon the effectiveness of the resignation of his predecessor, Pam Stewart.[27][28]

Corcoran was appointed by a unanimous vote of the Florida Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor. Democratic state representative Anna V. Eskamani criticized his appointment, saying that Corcoran had "no professional background in education."[29] Others pointed to potential conflicts of interest due to his wife's position as CEO of a charter school.[30] Anne Corcoran, who founded a classical liberal arts charter school because she believed in that model of education, was unpaid for her role.[31] Corcoran dismissed previous allegations that her husband has a conflict of interest, saying her family likely loses money for the unpaid time she dedicates to her charter school.[32]

Corcoran's tenure has been characterized by contentious relations with a number of school districts and superintendents.[33]

Corcoran's management of school reopening during the Covid-19 pandemic has been a source of friction. On July 7, 2020, President Donald Trump tweeted "Schools must open in the fall", the same day that Corcoran ordered all public and private brick-and-mortar schools to reopen in August for at least five days per week and provide a "full-array" of services.[34] On August 7, 2020, Corcoran delivered a letter that denied Hillsborough County School Board's request to open the school year exclusively online.[35] In April 2021, Corcoran wrote to school districts stating that there was no strong evidence that mask wearing slowed the spread of COVID-19 at schools.[36]

In March 2021, the Duval County school district removed a secondary school teacher from classroom teaching.[37] While the district did not specify the cause of removal, a Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit alleged that the cause was Donfrio's posting of a Black Lives Matter flag and anti-racist content in her teaching.[38] Responding to questions following a speech at Hillsdale College in early May, Corcoran announced that it was he who made the decision to fire Donfrio: "We made sure she was terminated and now we're being sued by every one of the liberal left groups who say it's freedom of speech issue" and accused the teacher of having her "entire classroom memorialized to Black Lives Matter".[39]

In May 2021, Corcoran submitted an application to succeed John E. Thrasher as president of Florida State University, and the selection committee advanced him along with eight others for on campus interviews.[40][41] Media reports portrayed Corcoran as the inside candidate.[42] On May 13, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools addressed a letter of concern to the Florida Board of Governors describing a potential conflict of interest due to Corcoran's membership on the board that appointed the selection committee and would decide the appointment.[43][44] Corcoran was not among the finalists named on May 15.[45]

Bid-rigging investigation[edit]

In 2022, Corcoran came under scrutiny when the DOE was shown to be in talks with MGT Consulting, a firm led by Corcoran's longtime colleague Trey Traviesa, for some time before the bidding on a multimillion-dollar educational services contract was opened for a single week, a situation that appeared to allow the firm preferential access. Out of 25 firms sent a request for quotes, only MGT responded within the one-week deadline.[46] One week prior to the bidding being opened, Corcoran had hosted a closed-door meeting between Traviesa, Jefferson County school officials, and charter school lobbyist Ralph Arza.[47]

State investigators learned of the improprieties when a new company formed by two of Corcoran's deputies, Strategic Initiatives Partners, also applied for the Jefferson County contract on the final day of bidding.[47] The DOE inspector general opened a probe as a conflict-of-interest investigation into Strategic Initiatives Partners and issued an inconclusive report.[48] The two Strategic Initiatives principals working in Corcoran's department resigned, and Gov. DeSantis' office declared the matter closed.[49] However, state Democratic lawmakers then requested that the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general look further into the issue because the funds for the contract were allocated from federal COVID-19 relief funds.[50]

On May 1, 2022, Corcoran stepped down as education commissioner.[51]

Political positions[edit]

Corcoran is an advocate for charter school expansion and private school vouchers. His brother Michael Corcoran is a lobbyist for charter school management company, Accelerated Learning Solutions, and his wife Anne helped found a charter school for whom she acts as CEO.[52] While speaker of the House, Corcoran criticized a Florida Education Association lawsuit and described teachers unions as "literally trying to destroy the lives of 100,000 children. Most of them are minorities, and all of them are poor. ... It is downright evil."[53]

In 2017, Corcoran passed his Schools of Hope bill, which funds new charter schools to open near public schools reporting weak results in standardized assessments.[54] In the 2018 legislative session, he passed his Hope Scholarships bill, which funds private school vouchers for bullied public school students.[55]

During the run-up to the 2018 Florida gubernatorial campaign, Corcoran's Watchdog USA PAC ran an ad targeting so-called sanctuary cities.[24] During the 2018 legislative session, he backed HP9,[56] which pre-empted local policies about non-cooperation with ICE.

New College of Florida presidency[edit]

On January 6, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed six new members to the board of the New College of Florida.[57] At its first meeting, on January 31, 2023, the new board fired President Patricia Okker, who had only held the position for 19 months, and installed Corcoran as its interim president.[58] He was paid a base salary of $699,000, which is $400,000 more than his predecessor made.[59]

At the time the interim appointment was announced, Corcoran was still registered as a lobbyist for educational concerns, including Charter Schools USA, Polk County Public Schools, and the University of Miami, among three dozen clients whose relationship he had reaffirmed earlier that month.[60]

In August 2023, two days after the New College presidential search committee named Corcoran one of three finalists for the full-time position, news broke that a federal grand jury had begun investigating the Jefferson County bid-rigging scandal.[61][62] The federal probe showed that state officials tasked with investigating the scandal had never interviewed anyone involved in it and never pulled records concerning the case.[63]

In October 2023, after being the New College of Florida's interim president for nine months, Corcoran was named the school's president.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Corcoran resides in Land o' Lakes, Florida. His wife, Anne Corcoran, is active in the Barney Charter School Initiative affiliated with Hillsdale College.[30][64] They have six children [3] [65] She is a lawyer with Nelson Mullins in Tallahassee.[66]

Richard Corcoran's brother is Michael Corcoran, a leading political and corporate lobbyist in Tallahassee and Tampa.[67] His sister Jacqueline is a former Washington, D.C., political operative and current lobbyist with Corcoran Partners.[68]


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  30. ^ a b Rado, Diane (August 23, 2019). "FL Education Commissioner's wife connected to private Christian college chosen for state civics education review". Florida Phoenix.
  31. ^ Mahoney, Emily (March 29, 2018). "Florida lawmakers' wives on new charter school boards". Tampa Bay Times.
  32. ^ Solochek, Jeffrey (May 29, 2016). "Incoming Speaker Corcoran says bill that would benefit his wife's charter is part of a larger reform". Tampa Bay Times.
  33. ^ Hatter, Lynn. "Corcoran Blasts Duval Superintendent Over Failing Schools". WJCT News. No. May 22, 2019.
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  40. ^ Dobson, Byron (May 13, 2021). "In their own words: Meet the 9 people hoping to be next Florida State University president". Tallahassee Democrat.
  41. ^ Corcoran, Richard. "FSU Presidency application materials" (PDF). Florida State Presidential Search. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
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  56. ^ HB9
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  59. ^ Moody, Josh (February 14, 2023). "College to Pay Interim President $400K More Than Predecessor". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved March 1, 2023.
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  64. ^ Davidson-Hiers, CD (February 18, 2020). "Principal of Tallahassee Classical — Leon County's new charter school — explains vision". Tallahassee Democrat.
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  66. ^ LLP, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. "Nelson Mullins - Anne Corcoran Joins Nelson Mullins in Tallahassee". Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.
  67. ^ Mower, Lawrence (November 27, 2018). "Ashley Moody names man who lobbied for opioid industry to inaugural committee". Tampa Bay Times.
  68. ^ Schorsch, Peter (December 18, 2019). "Personnel note: Jacqueline Corcoran joins Corcoran Partners". Florida Politics.

External links[edit]

Florida House of Representatives
Preceded by
Tom Anderson
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 45th district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 37th district

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Pam Stewart
Education Commissioner of Florida
Succeeded by