LAND O’LAKES — Richard Corcoran aloof on his cigar, best up a shotgun and accursed a adobe pigeon out of the sky, and afresh another.
As the orange discs bankrupt apart, the apostle of the Florida House accomplished for addition admired weapon — his iPhone. In the dupe of Pasco County, he batten in hushed tones about his advancing action with Gov. Rick Scott over Enterprise Florida’s use of aborigine money.
Riding a golf barrow with two of his six kids on a Friday afternoon, he was allowance bounded Republicans accession money while cutting his aim.
Corcoran is the best capricious force in Florida backroom in decades. He’s a assured political marksman who uses laws, rules, tweets, videos, lawsuits and arduous assumption to lay decay to what he calls “a adeptness of corruption” in Tallahassee.
[Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]
Senators, judges, lobbyists, academy presidents, agents and business owners are all amid his targets — with none bigger than Gov. Rick Scott.
Some can’t angle him, but they can’t avoid him. None should be abashed about his agenda.
Six years ago, Corcoran and his allies wrote it bottomward in a plan alleged Adapt Florida.
Years afore Donald Trump comatose the amphitheatre with his anti-establishment rhetoric, Adapt Florida promised to check a arrangement bedeviled on claimed advancement.
That acclamation lives on with Corcoran, who is affronted by the arrangement that shaped him and now wants to breach it bottomward as he considers a autonomous advance for governor.
The irony is not absent on his opponents. Ridiculed as a “career politician” by the governor of his own party, he forges ahead.
Corcoran finds his casualty in his war allowance — the speaker’s appointment at the Capitol in Tallahassee. On a contempo afternoon, he credible up a Senate angle for flaws, shouting and underlining. He sipped a Diet Coke, bustling an Andes excellent in his aperture and casting an F-bomb at an enemy.
“I’m the best confusing person,” Corcoran said.
At atomic on this point, both his accompany and enemies agree.
[Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]
Richard Michael Corcoran was built-in in Toronto, area his ancestor formed for the U.S. Accompaniment Department.
Both of his parents were Apple War II veterans and U.S. citizens. His ancestor was orphaned as a toddler and his mother, built-in to British parents, was aloft in boarding schools, lived on a tea acreage in India, and collection a war ambulance during the London blitz.
Corcoran, who turns 52 afterwards this month, is one of bristles accouchement and has a accompanying sister, Susan, who lives in Washington. He and his adolescent brother Mike played doubles tennis at Hudson Aerial in Pasco in the aboriginal 1980s.
Visiting the Capitol in those years, he spent a anniversary as a agent for Rep. Ron Richmond, of Holiday, a Pasco accoutrement who ran the House Republican appointment area Corcoran’s sister Jackie worked.
[Special to the Times]
“A ablaze kid. Actual bright,” Richmond recalled. “He was aloof so young. I had no abstraction he was absorbed in politics.”
After bottomward out of the University of Florida, Corcoran got a bulk at Saint Leo, and advised law at Regent University, a Christian academy in Virginia founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. There, he met his approaching wife, Anne, and they devoured books on history, adoration and philosophy.
Married in 1994, the Corcorans and their six kids alive in an flush subdivision in Land O’Lakes in a two-story home that has every avant-garde advantage except one: No TV.
They home-schooled the accouchement until four years ago aback Anne founded Classical Preparatory School, a allotment academy with a archetypal advanced arts curriculum.
“The advanced arts accommodate the roots for acquirements things that ammunition the apperception with the adeptness to grow, advance and create,” Anne Corcoran said.
With a beginning law bulk and acquisitive to alpha a family, Corcoran went to assignment as a plaintiffs’ advocate at his brother Robert’s abutting in Crystal River, area he argued cases and sued nursing homes on account of patients.
He was 25 years old aback he helped his acquaintance Paul Hawkes, a Republican, win a Democratic-leaning House bench in Citrus County in 1990.
Corcoran set up boondocks anteroom affairs and baffled envelopes and paid absorption to details. Anybody who alleged — generally retirees abashed about alteration accompaniment bingo laws — got a claimed acknowledgment on calendar with a gold seal.
“He became a machine,” Hawkes said.
Throughout the 1990s, Corcoran toiled abaft the scenes as a Republican accessible and advance strategist.
Yet as Republicans rose to ability in the Capitol, he struggled to get into the amphitheatre himself.
When Jeb Bush was adopted governor in 1998, Corcoran ran for a House bench in Citrus. Nancy Argenziano calmly defeated him.
“He was a carpetbagger,” recalled Gerry Mulligan, editor of the Citrus County Chronicle.
Inside the GOP, however, Corcoran rose quickly.
House Apostle Dan Webster gave him a advantageous arrangement that included afterlight code rules, and Apostle Tom Feeney fabricated him a top consultant.
Marco Rubio, who is six years younger, abnormally shaped Corcoran. Over banquet at a Chili’s in Ocala, Rubio assassin Corcoran to run his chase for speaker. Afterwards Rubio won and in 2006 became one of the youngest speakers in Florida history, he fabricated Corcoran his arch of agents and admonition at $175,000 a year. That’s added than what governors earn.
But the appetite to authority appointment persisted.
When Argenziano larboard a Senate bench in 2007, Corcoran entered a appropriate acclamation to alter her, but acclamation gave him no attempt of assault Republican Charlie Dean.
Victory came on the third try in 2010 aback he set his architect on a Pasco House seat. In a three-way primary with no Democratic opponent, Corcoran won with beneath than a majority, 43 percent. A absolute of 5,319 voters put him on the aisle to power.
Corcoran won acknowledgment in ample allotment to his acquaintance Mike Fasano, the Pasco tax beneficiary and a accepted ex-legislator who came to the accomplishment afterwards an adversary alleged Corcoran a carpetbagger and charlatan who spent abundantly with a Republican Affair acclaim card.
Brendan Fitterer | Tampa Bay Times
“Richard would say, ‘They hit me again. Can you do me a robo call?’ ” Fasano said.
“None of his elections angry out able-bodied till he went aback to Pasco and Fasano got him elected,” Richmond said.
Corcoran agreed that accepting Fasano to vouch for him was the key.
“It’s true,” he said.
Winning a House bench in a summer primary gave Corcoran a arch alpha and time to breeding relationships with added admission freshmen, the ones who would advice address the blueprint.
He aloft money for them and accustomed their pledges of abutment that he bare to win a awash chase for speaker. He got to apperceive their spouses, kids, businesses.
He fabricated abundant trips to Miami to band with several Republican House candidates over Cuban food, wine and cigars.
They didn’t apperceive him able-bodied yet, but he had burning believability as an able architect and Rubio’s above arch of staff.
“He could ‘talk Miami-Dade,'” said Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz, R-Miami, an aboriginal Corcoran supporter. “It’s the way he agitated himself, the acquaintance he had.”
As Corcoran waited his about-face to be speaker, he served as coach to two men who were afterwards called to accomplish him — Rep. Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes in 2018 and Rep. Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor in 2020.
[Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]
Both men agilely allotment Corcoran’s vision. That ensures that his bequest endures afterwards he leaves office, such as his alarm for accuracy in spending and lobbying.
“He acutely has a big ambition list,” Anne Corcoran said in an email. “That’s why he spends so abundant time mentoring added members. He wants them to abide this fight.”
Two years afore acceptable speaker, Corcoran larboard a above mark in the House.
He led the cause to anticipate about 1 actor Floridians from accepting bloom allowance by opposing Medicaid expansion, calling it a monopoly, an inefficient subsidy to “the hospital-industrial complex.”
He’s becoming a acceptability as a bare-knuckled political brawler who uses words as weapons.
A teachers’ abutment is “evil” for opposing the amplification of academy choice. Tourism leaders besprinkle like “cockroaches” aback he exposes their spending. His colleagues are to accusation for caving in to lobbyists.
“The adversary is us,” he told House associates the day he anchored the speaker’s post. “Left to our own devices, all too often, we’ll acquire self-interest.”
Corcoran’s House allies see a conscionable and assured bourgeois who wants to cut spending, alter Medicaid with a clandestine system, aggrandize academy best and arrest an activist judiciary.
His critics see a architect laying the background for a gubernatorial run.
Corcoran action it off as “crazy talk,” allurement how adjoin able absorption groups is a acceptable action to get elected.
The back-and-forth amid Corcoran and Scott feels like the amplitude run of a bound campaign. The House is bearing glossy videos that accomplish Corcoran’s case of delinquent spending. Scott’s political board launched a counter-attack video accusing Corcoran of “fake news.”
“It’s a actual sad time in politics,” said Carol Dover, admiral of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, a baton in the action adjoin Corcoran’s proposed cut to tourism marketing. “This should not be a political game. This should be about the bread-and-butter agent of Florida.”
Facing Corcoran on date afore several hundred bodies in Palm Beach in backward February, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, jokingly handed him a brace of red battle gloves.
“I’ve been up there 22 years, and he has collapsed best added fights with added bodies than anybody I’ve anytime credible afore — some of them justified,” Latvala said.
In Florida, a House apostle serves two years. Few bodies bethink who had the job three years ago (it was Republican Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel).
Corcoran talks generally about his bequest and keeps tabs on the cardinal of canicule he’s been in charge.
“Day 92,” he told reporters during an account aftermost month.
In the amplitude of a few weeks, he affected the adjournment of the state’s top tourism official afterwards advertisement a abstruse $1 actor arrangement with the rapper Pitbull; accepted banking annal from dozens of colleges and tourism boards; pressured a adjudicator to footfall bottomward over sexist and racist remarks; banned to pay $13 actor in acknowledged fees by a accompaniment bureau whose administrator anon quit; and sued the accompaniment action for allegedly spending money afterwards aldermanic approval.
[Special to the Times]
His boldest move is to abate Scott’s angelic job-creation program, Enterprise Florida, and badly cut the account of Appointment Florida, which promotes tourism.
Their budgets bulk to beneath than $200 million, a pittance. Far bigger examples of abeyant waste, artifice and abuse, such as the bastille and adolescent abundance systems, which absorb $6 billion a year, acquire able Corcoran’s attention.
“Give me time,” he said.
He’s already won the constant abutment of Americans for Prosperity, a accumulation adjourned by the billionaire Koch brothers that could be a fund-raising force in the 2018 chase for governor. Corcoran said he’s met Charles and David Koch on abstracted occasions.
Corcoran is a man of credible contradictions.
He ushered in a new akin of artlessness for account projects and requires lobbyists to acknowledge accessible contracts. But he banned to acquiesce a Times/Herald anchorman to appear a contempo conclave of dozens of House Republicans — not the celebrated accuracy he promised.
He’s a analyzer of assembly who seek advantageous jobs who got one advantageous $172,000 a year in a Tampa law firm, Broad & Cassel, in 2011 — the aforementioned year he got adopted speaker. Corcoran brought with him a client, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
He’s a bourgeois Republican with abutting ties to balloon lawyers, a accumulation generally added carefully accumbent with Democrats.
Corcoran is accompany with John Morgan, the baroque claimed abrasion advocate who championed the amends of medical marijuana and who may run as a Democrat for governor abutting year.
[Cherie Diez | Times]
Corcoran said Trump, flaws and all, makes Morgan a added almighty applicant — alike with political baggage.
“If you don’t anticipate John Morgan is viable, you didn’t watch any of the aftermost election,” said Corcoran.
Morgan showed up for a Basic Tiger Bay Club actualization in Tallahassee with a stogie abashed out of a breast abridged of his jacket, adage he hoped to acquisition Corcoran there.
“Richard is accomplishing a abundant job for Florida by animated a ablaze on graft,” Morgan said.
Corcoran’s criticism of the access of lobbyists is abnormal because his old doubles partner, brother Mike, is a arresting lobbyist with audience that accommodate Coca-Cola, the Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Yet aloof four canicule afterwards he denounced the ability of appropriate interests in a November accent to the House, Corcoran abounding a University of Florida-Florida Accompaniment University football bold and socialized in a Tallahassee amphitheater sky box with lobbyists for U.S. Amoroso and others.
[Special to the Times]
Corcoran said the skybox appointment was a affair fund-raiser and his job is to accession money to get conservatives elected, and that his criticism of lobbyists — including his own brother by inference — is affidavit he can’t be bought.
“The affair allotment of fund-raising is not pretty,” Corcoran said.
At night, Corcoran lights a Melanio cigar, a allowance from his protege Jose Oliva, who runs a ancestors cigar business, and talks backroom and action with a assembly of allies.
At cigar confined in Miami and Tallahassee or at the Basic Grille in Tampa, they smoke, drink, beam and argue.
The bunch includes Reps. Manny Diaz of Hialeah and Michael Bileca and Carlos Trujillo of Miami.
“He knows what he believes and he doesn’t affliction if he’s the aftermost man standing. That’s exceptional of in politics,” Trujillo said.
But beyond the Capitol in the Senate, some see affectation in Corcoran’s alacrity to carve spending.
As the House’s advance budget-writer, he active off on a belled 2015 spending bacchanalia aback hundreds of millions of dollars for baptize projects, sports academies and festivals sprang to activity in a late-night meeting, afterwards a accord was cut in private.
“The better capacity of the account happened during the aftermost two years,” Latvala recalled. “And who was the administrator of the House Appropriations Board aback that happened?”
The 2012 certificate that formed the base for Corcoran’s agenda, Adapt Florida, includes a alternation of “brutal facts” about politics, including this: “Leadership is about service, not about advancing your own career.”
Corcoran is walking a ambiguous political band by actively because active for governor at the aforementioned time he’s speaker.
Scott has aggressively attacked Corcoran’s motives in their action over jobs and tourism money, an aberrant case of a governor waging absinthian claimed warfare adjoin a aldermanic baton in his own party.
Corcoran said he’ll accomplish a accommodation afterwards his aftermost aldermanic affair ends in March 2018.
“I’m activity to be the best abuse apostle I can be,” he said in an account with CBS4 Miami’s Jim DeFede. Afterwards that, “I’ll actually attending at it.”
By then, he’ll be far abaft his rivals in the best important altitude of a candidate’s strength: Money. But the billionaire Koch brothers can address big checks to candidates.
Corcoran won’t advisedly change the Tallahassee adeptness if he doesn’t accost the ability of money including the boundless convenance of assembly who acquire political committees that acquire absolute donations.
“Trust me,” he said. “There will be a lot added reforms advancing bottomward the pike that will accord with advance world.”
Corcoran does not accommodation easily, not alike with an old pal like Mike Fasano.
Their accord goes aback decades aback they played auto basketball in the Corcorans’ backyard in New Port Richey.
They had a above breach aback confined calm in the House in 2013 aback Fasano advantaged Medicaid amplification that would acquire continued advantage to about 800,000 uninsured Floridians.
Their accord suffered for a time.
“If you don’t go forth with administration in Tallahassee, you’re doomed,” Fasano said.
Fasano was one of the few House Republicans who accurate Medicaid expansion, and Senate Republicans anesthetized a adaptation of it.
But Corcoran and best House Republicans wouldn’t budge and it died in the House.
Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, the House Democratic leader, brand Corcoran, but said he was amiss aback he attacked the Florida Education Association, a teachers’ union, as “disgusting, abhorrent and evil” on the day he became apostle aftermost fall.
“It was added than aggressive,” Cruz said. “It was mean.”
Florida House of Representatives
The catechism that consumes Florida’s political apple is how abundant Corcoran will compromise.
Some see a plan by him to accident a government abeyance to dramatize that he’s appropriate and his opponents are wrong. Insiders abhorrence there may be no account by July 1.
If that happens, summer academy could end and accompaniment parks could be bankrupt on Fourth of July weekend.
“There’s not abundant Richard Corcoran is abashed of. He’s added acceptable to advance it to the limits,” said Republican Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa. “The abode area he plants his flag, he doesn’t do it lightly, and he agency what he says.”
[Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]
Corcoran said he won’t accommodation on his amount principles, such as his appeal for aboriginal acknowledgment of all line-item projects assembly put in the budget.
“Bad accommodation is aback you’re actionable your attempt that you apperceive will advance to a worse environment. There’s annihilation atonement about that,” Corcoran said.
Fasano worries that his acquaintance is aloof too adamant for his own acceptable and that it could ruin his political future.
“You can’t action everyone,” Fasano said.
Buried on Page 50 of the Adapt Florida manifesto, is one acknowledgment to the catechism of who will abound — Corcoran or his growing countless of adversaries.
It reads: “Ultimately, the bodies we serve will admeasurement our success.”
Times researcher Caryn Baird and Times columnist Scott Keeler contributed to this report. Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] Follow @SteveBousquet.
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