TX-AG: Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who is the son of Jeb Bush, announced Wednesday that he would attempt to unseat scandal-ridden Attorney General Ken Paxton in the Republican primary.
Bush, unlike most of his family, has been a devoted Donald Trump acolyte, and he previewed just what kind of campaign he’d be running this week with, of all things, beer koozies. That swag depicted outlines of the two shaking hands above a Trump quote reading, “This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him." We’re guessing that the image was not drawn up by the land commissioner’s uncle, the noted Dallas-based painter George W. Bush.
The younger Bush, though, has much to gain in today’s GOP by groveling before the man who once tweeted that Jeb Bush “has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife,” who is also George P. Bush’s mother. Trump said of this primary last week, “I like them both very much. I’ll be making my endorsement and recommendation to the great people of Texas in the not-so-distant future.” Trump didn’t hint which man he preferred, though Politico relayed that “most insiders think” that Paxton will be his choice.
Paxton was one of the ringleaders of the failed lawsuit aimed at convincing the Supreme Court to overturn Trump’s defeat, and it would be little surprise if his multiple scandals deterred Trump at all. The attorney general was indicted for securities fraud during his first months in office in 2015, though things soon stalled due to ongoing legal challenges. He was re-elected 51-47 in 2018, but the case remains ongoing.
In November, the AP reported that the FBI was investigating unrelated allegations that Paxton had used his office to aid a wealthy ally named Nate Paul in exchange for favors. He’s also facing a whistleblower lawsuit from four former senior aides who say they were fired after they reported this behavior to law enforcement. Among other things, this quartet claims that Paul helped their former boss remodel his home and, upon the attorney general’s recommendation, hired a woman Paxton was involved in an affair with.
Bush, meanwhile, has faced a very different set of challenges during his time in office, so much so that the Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock recently said that he was so weak that “[h]is name doesn’t even come up in the Legislature.” That’s a position few would have foreseen even a few years ago for a member of what had once been one of America’s most powerful families: Bush, who was a prominent Latino surrogate for Republicans like his grandfather and uncle, was a rising star well before he ran for office himself, and some allies even graced him with the nickname “47.”
Bush won the 2014 race to succeed Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who left to unsuccessfully run for lieutenant governor, without much trouble, but, as Richard Parker recently wrote in Politico, he quickly antagonized his party with his plans to renovate the Alamo.
Bush’s proposal to move the Cenotaph, a monument carved by a Confederate sympathizer that commemorates only the mission’s Anglo defenders, in particular infuriated nativists. Bush argued he was just trying to relocate a structure that was falling apart, but his detractors framed his plan as a threat to Texas’ past. Patterson even launched an anti-Bush comeback campaign for 2018, declaring, “Texas history is the Alamo.” Bush, who had Trump’s endorsement, massively outspent Patterson in the primary and avoided a runoff, but his 58-30 victory did not impress observers.
Bush’s Alamo troubles didn’t disappear following his re-election. In 2019, another former opponent posted a fake story on Facebook claiming that Bush wanted to put up a statue of Antonio López de Santa Anna, the Mexican general who took the mission in 1836. The land commissioner responded by calling this a “flat-out racist” distortion, but his fellow Republicans very much did not have his back. Dan Patrick, the state’s powerful lieutenant governor, instead jumped in to accuse Bush of “derid[ing] anyone who disagrees with the Alamo redesign as a small vocal minority who are liars and racists.”
Texas Democrats haven’t won a statewide race since 1994, but Team Blue is hoping that an acrimonious primary could give them an opening, especially if Paxton comes out on top. The Democratic field currently consists of former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski and prominent civil rights attorney Lee Merritt.