Key Coverage

Jeb Bush Got His Way on Affirmative Action in Florida. Then He Got a Mess.

On affirmative action, Bush was not just burnishing his conservative credentials by abolishing what he called “stupid” and discriminatory race-based set-asides in Florida’s higher-education system and government-contracting sphere. He also was trying to preserve a pipeline to education and employment opportunities for minorities that would, he promised, actually improve their access to college and state contracts.

And perhaps just as importantly, he was attempting to block California-based activist Ward Connerly from putting an affirmative-action referendum on the November 2000 Florida ballot. That same ballot would, it was widely presumed, feature George W. Bush as the Republican nominee for president. Florida was a crucial swing state. The Connerly referendum would probably bring out droves of African American, overwhelmingly Democratic voters who would oppose the measure and most likely vote against his big brother.

Jeb Bush decided he couldn’t let any of that happen.