Just call him the "eGovernor."
Jeb Bush released the first chapter of his forthcoming e-book Tuesday, featuring a set of emails he sent and received from staff and constituents during his first month as Florida governor.
The carefully selected batch of emails paints Bush as determined to run a tech-savvy and transparent administration.
Bush writes that he spent around "30 hours a week answering emails, either from my laptop or BlackBerry, often while on the road" in order to stay in touch with Floridians.
Answering email was almost a second full-time job, but worth it, Bush says.
"After a long day of meetings or travel, answering emails is sometimes what actually energized me," he writes. "In a way, reading and responding to emails allowed me to be in all 67 counties at once."
The 2016 Republican presidential contender also published an email archive spanning his tenure as governor. Media outlets previously reported on the contents of the archives when they were released in December via public records request.
The book chapter features both angry and supportive emails from constituents and touches on some early mistakes in his administration. Bush writes he was accused of violating Florida's open meetings law when he met with the state Senate president and House speaker.
A former aide to his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Lawton Chiles, wrote to Bush "…Don't sweat the honest mistake on Day One" but advised him to "err on the side of letting press in."
Bush thanked the aide for the "good advice" and quipped, "I wonder if this email is a matter of public record??????????????????"
A constituent emailed Bush on Jan. 21, 1999, complaining about highway traffic and asked "are you really Jeb or a staff member? Just curious."
One day later, Bush responded "I am jeb. You can write Secretary Barry at the DOT in Tallahassee."
Bush prodded his then-communications director, Cory Tilley, to build a new website. He encouraged Tilley to create a design contest for the new page.
"We need to get the web page upgraded as a high priority," Bush wrote on Jan. 11, 1999. "Use your creativity on how we get this done … If the campaign had the best web page in the country, why shouldn’t the Governor’s office?"
The email release is yet another indication Bush is serious about running for president. He pledged to publish more than 250,000 emails from his time as governor when he announced his intention to explore a presidential bid in December.
It's an effort by Bush to create a reputation of openness, something that could appeal to voters who don't traditionally vote Republican, such as young people. The book chapter and website are available in English and Spanish, although many emails in the archive are not translated.
Bush's tech push has not been without missteps. He came under fire this week for hiring a tech official who published a series of sexist tweets several years ago.
The emails are also designed to highlight Bush's conservative record in Florida at a time when he's facing criticism from some on the right for breaking with them on Common Core education standards and immigration. Here are a few policy points Bush touched on:
- Several emails discussed tax-cut proposals and ways to cut the number of government employees. "One of our goals should be to have fewer government employees each year we are serving … Labor has huge potential to be reduced, possibly in half," Bush wrote.
- He was also grappling with a plan to eliminate affirmative action. He decided to oppose an effort by activist Ward Connerly to put an anti-affirmative action measure on Florida ballots.
- One constituent accused Bush of giving Connerly the "cold shoulder." Bush replied, "I did not give Mr. Connerly the cold shoulder. Unlike others in Tallahassee, I met with him and was respectful of him. I believe that the issue of discrimination can and should be dealt with in means Other than the initiative process. I will do my part as governor to fight against it."
- One year later, Bush used an executive order to eliminate race-based preferences for state contracts and public university admission. His decision angered black leaders.
Update, 3:35 p.m.: The email dump contains a number of messages containing email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers of some Florida residents, The Verge reported. The disclosure of personal data raised privacy concerns about the email release.
Bush told reporters in Florida that any private information will be scrubbed from the web (a difficult task).
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.