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A new start for Arza?

With the one-year anniversary of his departure from the Legislature looming, Ralph Arza has decamped to Palm Beach County and says he's looking for a fresh start.

Miami Herald reporter Matthew I. Pinzur reports that the Miami Republican and his wife, Eris, bought a half-million home in Lake Wales Worth in August. Arza says he wants to expand the education consulting business that he quietly launched in 2004. He also plans to open a campaign consulting firm in Miami, partnering with cousin, Hugo Arza.

The one-time state rep says he rarely keeps up with political news these days and is still recovering from last year's end to is once-bright political career: Arza declined to seek re-election and left the Legislature last November. He pleaded guilty in May to two misdemeanor counts of tampering with a witness. He was sentenced to 18 months of probation.

It was a stunning ending: almost immediately after his election in 2000, Arza became a chief legislative ally of then-Gov. Jeb Bush, especially on the controversial overhaul of public eduation that was a cornerstone of Bush's administration. But Arza's back-slapping public charm and affinity for the spotlight was eventually overshadowed by an off-screen intensity and legendarily short fuse. His downfall came last October, when Arza and cousin Paulino Barbon Jr. left drunken, threatening cellphone messages for fellow Miami GOP'er Gus Barreiro. One of Arza's messages also used a racial slur that Barreriro had previously accused him of using in reference to Miami-Dade Superintendent Rudy Crew.

Arza said he's now living within 2 hours of 70 percent of Florida's population - ideal for consulting work. He makes it to Miami two or three times a week.

"Moving on with my life," he said in an e-mail.

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