Richard Corcoran

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Richard Corcoran
Richard Corcoran.jpeg
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
Born (1965-03-16) March 16, 1965 (age 57)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political partyRepublican
EducationSaint Leo University (BA)
Regent University (JD)

Richard Corcoran (born March 16, 1965) is an American politician and former 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 served as the state's education commissioner.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Canada, Richard 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.[2] He later attended St. Leo College, graduating in 1989, and Regent University, where he received his Juris Doctor in 1996.[3] While enrolled in college, he served six years in the United States Naval Reserve (1987–1993).[4]

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.[5] He then worked as a legislative aide for his friend Paul Hawkes, representative in the Florida House from 1990 to 1994.[6] 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.[7]

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

In June 1999, Corcoran filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.[8]

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.[7]

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

In 2006, Corcoran worked for candidate Marco Rubio, whose committee paid him $113,000 to write and promote Rubio's political tract 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future.[2][10] After that year's election, he became chief of staff to the new House Speaker at a salary of $175,000 per year. He resigned to prepare for a 2007 state Senate by-election but dropped out rather than face Democrat Charlie Dean.[7][11] Corcoran was hired by future governor Rick Scott to do legal work for Solantic.[7]

When Corcoran was chief aide to Marco Rubio, his spending of Republican Party of Florida funds drew scrutiny[12][13] and spending on flights, hotels, and restaurants from party coffers in 2015 and 2016 also drew critics.[14] Corcoran rejected suggestions that the spending (such as an $8,000 meal at The French Laundry in Napa Valley) was excessive.[15]

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.[16]

In 2011, he was hired as counsel at the Tampa offices of the law firm Broad and Cassel.[17]

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.[3] He was endorsed for re-election by The Tampa Tribune.[18] Corcoran defeated Hammond, gathering nearly 84% of the vote. Corcoran was subsequently re-elected without opposition in both 2014 and 2016.[3]

During his time as representative, he led an effort to oppose Medicaid expansion. He curried controversy with Governor Rick Scott by attacking Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.[2]

Following his 2016 election, Corcoran became speaker of the Florida House of Representatives for the 2016–2018 legislative session.[19][20] As House leader, Corcoran was criticized for the "pugnacious manner and determination that have become his hallmarks."[21] 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."[2] In 2018, he described the Florida teachers' union as "disgusting", "repugnant", and "downright evil".[22] In a 2017 profile recounting his shouting and cursing, Corcoran told a reporter, "I'm the most disruptive person."[2]

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. He did not name the individuals, nor did he report any of the incidents to authorities.[23]

In January 2018, Corcoran's PAS 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. Critics pointed to Corcoran's lack of education credentials or experience.[29] Others pointed to conflicts of interest due to his wife Anne Corcoran's position as CEO of a charter school.[30] She has worked with conservative groups such as Hillsdale College to influence the creation of a controversial new civics curriculum for Florida.[31]

Corcoran's tenure has been characterized by conflictual relations with many school districts and superintendents.[32] He has sought expanded powers to take over governance of school districts whose boards and officials disagree with his policies.[33]

Corcoran's management of school reopening during the Covid-19 pandemic has been another 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] That day, the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida resulted in 11,385 new COVID-19 cases and 63 deaths, totaling to 213,797 cases and 3,841 deaths.[35][34] On August 7, 2020, Corcoran delivered a letter that denied Hillsborough County School Board's request to open the school year exclusively online.[36] 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.[37]

In March 2021, the Duval County school district removed a secondary school teacher from classroom teaching.[38] 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.[39] 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".[40][41]

In May 2021, Corcoran submitted an application to succeed John Thrasher as President of Florida State University, and the selection committee advanced him along with eight others for on campus interviews.[42][43] Media reports portrayed Corcoran as the inside candidate.[44] On May 13, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools addressed a letter of concern to the Florida Board of Governors describing a conflict of interest due to Corcoran's membership on the board that appointed the selection committee and would decide the appointment.[45][46] Corcoran was not among the finalists named on May 15.[47]

On May 1, 2022, Corcoran stepped down as education commissioner.[48]

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.[49] 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."[50]

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.[51] In the 2018 legislative session, he passed his "hope scholarships" bill, which funds private school vouchers for "bullied" public school students.[52] The program has been criticized for lack of oversight and accountability. Critics point out that vouchers are not reserved for those who need them, but are freely offered to families that do not need financial assistance. Vouchers also provide a means for wealthy companies to skip paying state taxes.[53]


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,[54] which pre-empted local policies about non-cooperation with ICE.

Culture wars[edit]

Corcoran is tied to leading right-wing education culture warriors. On February 5, 2018, Corcoran served as honorary master of ceremonies for a speech by Dinesh D'Souza at a Naples fundraising dinner for conservative education activist group Florida Citizens Alliance.[55][56] In May 2021, Hillsdale College president Larry Arnn called him "one of the most important men in the United States today."[41] During the same speech, Corcoran stated, "Education is our sword, that's our weapon ... There's going to be a battle ... The way we're going to get to where we're gonna get is by fighting every step of the way ... The whole argument on university campuses, there is no truth, it's all subjective."[57]

Florida legislative process[edit]

Corcoran's 2010 manifesto promised to delegate leadership power with committee chairs and members in a way that "gives all legislators equal footing." The claimed objective was to dilute the influence of lobbyists.[16] Once he became Speaker in 2016, however, his style proved far more directive.[citation needed]

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][58] They have six children, who were homeschooled[2] and then attended Classical Prep in Spring Hill, Florida, which Anne Corcoran founded and where she acted as CEO.[59] She is a lawyer with Nelson Mullins in Tallahassee.[60]

Richard Corcoran's brother is Michael Corcoran, a leading political and corporate lobbyist in Tallahassee and Tampa.[61] His sister Jacqueline is a former Washington, DC political operative and current lobbyist with Corcoran Partners.[62]


  1. ^ "Education Board taps Richard Corcoran to be Commissioner of Education". December 17, 2018. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bousquet, Steve (March 6, 2017). "This political leader stormed Florida's capital and made a lot of people angry". Bradenton Herald.
  3. ^ a b c "Richard Corcoran (Florida) - Ballotpedia". Ballotpedia. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  4. ^ "Commissioner Richard Corcoran". October 16, 2020.
  5. ^ Kennedy, John (September 25, 2010). "Thrasher draws a strong challenger in Senate race". The St. Augustine Record.
  6. ^ "Ballotpedia". Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d Klas, Mary Ellen (September 12, 2015). "Corcoran has legislative reforms in mind when he leads Florida House". Miami Herald.
  8. ^ Richard Corcoran, v. B.R., 8:99-bk-08940-TEB (M.D. Bankr. Fl. 1999).
  9. ^ "Richard Michael Corcoran". The Florida Bar. Retrieved May 8, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future, by Marco Rubio".
  11. ^ Klas, Mary Ellen. "Corcoran and Dean both say they're in if Argenziano leaves". Tampa Bay Times. No. March 12, 2007.
  12. ^ Frank, John (May 2010). "Republican Party of Florida releases $7.3 million in American Express credit card spending records". St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald.
  13. ^ Smith, Adam C. (March 2010). "Rubio's aide spent lavishly on party credit cards like his boss". Tampa Bay Times.
  14. ^ Caputo, Marc (September 14, 2015). "Future speaker bashes special interests, but spends big on their dime". Politico Florida.
  15. ^ Smith, Adam C.; Zhang, Eli (December 14, 2017). "The Florida House Speaker who bashes special interests spends their money lavishly - and won't apologize". Tampa Bay Times.
  16. ^ a b "Blue Print Florida". May 24, 2012 – via Internet Archive.
  17. ^ Bousquet, Steve (March 21, 2017). "Small world: Enterprise Florida and Richard Corcoran's law firm". Miami Herald.
  18. ^ "Fasano and Corcoran in Pasco races". Tampa Bay Times. July 23, 2012. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  19. ^ Moline, Michael (November 22, 2016). "Richard Corcoran installed as House speaker promising 'struggle' to do right". Florida Politics. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  20. ^ Bousquet, Steve (February 25, 2016). "Corcoran calls Gov. Scott's $250M jobs fund 'corporate welfare'". Miami Herald. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  21. ^ Cordeiro, Monivette (December 17, 2018). "Richard Corcoran, who once called teachers union 'evil,' was just appointed Florida education commissioner". Orlando Weekly.
  22. ^ Clark, Kristen M. (November 24, 2016). "Wasting no time as House speaker, Corcoran attacks teachers union". Tampa Bay Times.
  23. ^ Fineout, Gary (January 10, 2018). "Florida House speaker says he saw misconduct by legislators". Associated Press. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  24. ^ a b Mahoney, Emily L. (January 29, 2018). "Video: Richard Corcoran's explosive ad warns anyone can get killed by undocumented immigrants". Tampa Bay Times.
  25. ^ Mahoney, Emily L. (April 4, 2018). "Congressman Matt Gaetz endorses Richard Corcoran for governor". Tampa Bay Times.
  26. ^ Mahoney, Emily (May 9, 2018). "Florida's second most powerful Republican just passed on the governor's race and endorsed Adam Putnam". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  27. ^ "Richard Corcoran unanimously appointed Commissioner of Education". Tampa Bay Times. December 17, 2018. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  28. ^ "Pam Stewart stepping down as state education commissioner". Ocala Star-Banner. December 5, 2018. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  29. ^ Powers, Scott (December 17, 2018). "Anna Eskamani calls Richard Corcoran 'politically motivated and unqualified' to be education chief". Florida Politics.
  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. ^ Rado, Diane (August 22, 2019). "The Legislature inserted groups tied to right-wing donors into Florida's new law on civics education". Florida Phoenix.
  32. ^ Hatter, Lynn. "Corcoran Blasts Duval Superintendent Over Failing Schools". WJCT News. No. May 22, 2019.
  33. ^ "ICYMI: Corcoran and the FLBOE Want to Take Over Duval Public Schools. Your District Could Be Next". Accountabaloney. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  34. ^ a b Lardieri, Alexa (July 7, 2020). "Florida Orders Schools to Reopen in Fall Despite Rising Coronavirus Cases". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on July 8, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  35. ^ "Home - Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Outbreak". Florida COVID-19 Response. Florida Health. July 7, 2020. Archived from the original on July 7, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2020. 11,385 New Cases in FL Residents* 63 New Deaths in FL Residents* *Reported since yesterday
  36. ^ Solochek, Jeffrey S.; Sokol, Marlene (August 7, 2020). "Hillsborough's plan to keep schools closed hits state roadblock". Tampa Bay Times.
  37. ^ "Florida education commissioner asks school superintendents to make face masks voluntary next year". First Coast News. April 15, 2021.
  38. ^ Bloch, Emily. "EVAC Movement leader removed from classroom for 'several matters'". Florida Times-Union. No. March 25, 2021.
  39. ^ Bloch, Emily. "SPLC sues Duval Schools on behalf of teacher removed for refusing to take down Black Lives Matter flag". Florida Times-Union. No. April 16, 2021.
  40. ^ Bloch, Emily. "Florida education commissioner says he made sure teacher was fired; now her legal team's responding". Florida Times-Union. No. May 17, 2021.
  41. ^ a b Corcoran, Richard. "Education is Freedom". Youtube. Hillsdale College. Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  42. ^ Dobson, Byron (May 13, 2021). "In their own words: Meet the 9 people hoping to be next Florida State University president". Tallahassee Democrat.
  43. ^ Corcoran, Richard. "FSU Presidency application materials" (PDF). Florida State Presidential Search. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  44. ^ Burgess, Brian (May 13, 2021). "Insiders say FSU presidency is "greased" for Richard Corcoran. But are they talking to themselves?". The Capitolist.
  45. ^ Dobson, Byron. "Conflict? Richard Corcoran wants to be FSU president. He's also on the hiring board". Tallahassee Democrat. No. May 13, 2021.
  46. ^ Kumar, Divya. "Richard Corcoran's path to FSU presidency hits a snag". Tampa Bay Times. No. May 14, 2021.
  47. ^ Kumar, Divya. "Richard Corcoran out of FSU presidential search; three academics move on". Tampa Bay Times. No. May 16, 2021.
  48. ^ "Sen. Manny Diaz appointed as Florida education commissioner". WJCT News. April 29, 2022. Retrieved June 4, 2022.
  49. ^ EMILY L. MAHONEY (March 2018). "These legislators back charter schools. Their wives are charter school board members". Miami Herald.
  50. ^ Larrabee, Brandon (November 25, 2016). "A pause to give thanks at the Legislature". News Service of Florida.
  51. ^ "CS/HB 7069 - Education". Archived from the original on June 3, 2017. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  52. ^ "CS/CS/HB 1 (2018) - The Hope Scholarship Program". Archived from the original on May 8, 2021. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  53. ^ Peter Greene (April 2021). "In Florida, School Vouchers Mean Big Bucks For One Organization". Forbes.
  54. ^ HB9
  55. ^ Bakeman, Jessica. "Weeks Before Conservative Pundit Mocked Shooting Survivors, Corcoran Appeared At His Naples Speech". WLRN. No. February 21, 2018.
  56. ^ "Video: Pastor Rick Stevens and Dinesh D'Souza". Florida Citizens Alliance. March 9, 2018. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  57. ^ "FSU is off the hook, but Florida's stuck with a culture warrior running education". Orlando Sentinel. No. May 18, 2021.
  58. ^ Davidson-Hiers, CD (February 18, 2020). "Principal of Tallahassee Classical — Leon County's new charter school — explains vision". Tallahassee Democrat.
  59. ^ Solochek, Jeffrey S. (March 29, 2016). "Incoming speaker Corcoran says bill that would benefit his wife's charter school is part of broader reform". Tampa Bay Times.
  60. ^ LLP, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. "Nelson Mullins - Anne Corcoran Joins Nelson Mullins in Tallahassee". Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.
  61. ^ Mower, Lawrence (November 27, 2018). "Ashley Moody names man who lobbied for opioid industry to inaugural committee". Tampa Bay Times.
  62. ^ 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