Last spring, it looked like the Oklahoma state legislature was going to reject a school-choice bill to provide vouchers for learning-disabled students. Earl Sears, a Republican, announced his opposition on May 19 — a bad blow, because Sears is a former principal and several of his GOP colleagues take their cues from him on education.
Around 9:30 p.m. the next night, Sears’s phone rang. Jeb Bush was calling. “Excuse me, you mean the governor Jeb Bush of Florida?” asked Sears. The two men didn’t know each other and had not spoken previously, but they talked for 35 minutes. Bush urged Sears to support the bill, pointing out that an almost identical piece of legislation had become a successful law in Florida. “I tell you, he made an impact on me,” said Sears on the morning of May 21, when he described the conversation in a speech to fellow lawmakers. He switched his vote from no to yes. Hours later, the bill passed. “We couldn’t have done it without Sears,” says Brandon Dutcher of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank. “So it’s safe to say that we couldn’t have done it without Jeb Bush.”