Using Trump’s endorsement, George P. Bush makes final push for primary victory in Texas land commissioner race

March 4, 2018 GMT

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush is the scion of a political dynasty but he’s standing firmly with President Donald Trump as Tuesday’s Republican primary approaches.

Facing three opponents including former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Bush is using his support for Trump in hopes of fending off a runoff election, aligning himself as an ultra-conservative who has reduced the size of the Texas General Land Office. He’s spending millions on ads to promote his conservatism and attacking Patterson for not supporting Trump.

Some political experts say Bush is trying to differentiate himself from his family members, who repudiated Trump, by embracing a president who remains widely popular among Texas Republicans.

“If you’re a candidate running for statewide office as a Republican in Texas, the path of least resistance is to align yourself with Trump,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin.


Bush, 41, easily won the Republican primary nomination in 2014. This year may be different.

Bush is facing Patterson, who headed the Land Office for 12 years; former schoolteacher Rick Range; and land surveyor Davey Edwards.

Bush and Patterson have intensified their attacks against one another on social media, in the press and in political ads, including websites dedicated to criticizing the other’s record.

Patterson, who owns, has criticized Bush’s handling of housing recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the redevelopment of the land around the Alamo. He has also denounced Bush for not attending candidate forums or publicizing campaign events.

Bush, on the other hand, has said he is focused on doing his job as land commissioner and has noted he drastically cut the size of the General Land Office when he took over. His campaign, which owns, has paid for web ads lambasting Patterson for not voting for Trump.

Trump endorsements

George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush — George P. Bush’s father — also opposed Trump in 2016. George P. Bush, on the other hand, endorsed him.

“From Team Bush, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but you know what? You get back up and you help the man that won, and you make sure that we stop Hillary Clinton,” Bush said at a GOP event after Trump won the Republican nomination.

Campaign officials said Bush was not available for an interview. Lee Spieckerman, a campaign spokesman, said while the Bush family is very close, George P. Bush “is his own man.”

“He represents a new generation of conservative leaders,” Spieckerman said. “The Republican Party is rigorous. It’s diverse, and it’s a party epitomized by President Trump.”

Spieckerman said George P. Bush is “firmly aligned with our president.”

In the past month, Donald Trump Jr. and President Trump tweeted their support for Bush.


“Texas LC George P. Bush backed me when it wasn’t the politically correct thing to do, and I back him now,” Trump wrote in a tweet last week in which he also endorsed other GOP candidates.

On Friday, former President George H.W. Bush tweeted a photo of himself wearing blue-and-red socks emblazoned with the word “vote,” encouraging fellow Texans to hit the polls.

“While I am at it, this very proud grandfather will also put in a plug for @georgepbush for Texas Land Commissioner. A good man doing a great job,” he wrote.

University of Texas at Austin political scientist Daron Shaw said the George P. Bush campaign and others in Texas are aligning themselves with figures that are seen as anti-establishment. But that can be challenging for someone like Bush who comes from a storied political family with moderate conservative views, he said. A recent UT Austin/Texas Tribune poll shows 83 percent of Texas Republicans are supportive of Trump.

“What Bush would like to do is establish an identity as someone who is new and going to shake up the status quo. This is doubly difficult when you have a famous last name,” said Shaw, who worked as a strategist on both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. “Bush is attempting to reinforce the notion that he is his own man and a politician for the 2020s, not the 1980s.”

Patterson, Bush’s most outspoken opponent, accuses Bush of hanging his hat on the Trump endorsement because “that’s all he’s got.”

“That’s his salvation, or he hopes it’s his salvation,” Patterson said. “There’s nothing else.”

Patterson did not vote for Trump. Instead he cast a write-in vote for Evan McMullin, a Utah conservative, who ran as an anti-Trump independent. On the campaign trail, Patterson has praised Trump for many of his political appointments and makes a point to mention that his son is a pilot for Marine One, the president’s helicopter.

‘Effective conservative’

Along with emphasizing his support for Trump, Bush has also paid for mailers and video ads highlighting his conservatism.

One video features Bush, who has millions of dollars in his campaign coffers, wearing a quilted vest on a beach lauding his tenure as the “most conservative in the agency’s history.”

“I am a proud conservative. I stood by Ted Cruz in 2012. I endorsed President Trump in 2016. We’ve done a lot, but we’re just getting started,” Bush said.

He lists his accomplishments: creating a coastal master plan to better prepare the state against natural disasters, saving the Alamo by undertaking repairs; and stopping an “illegal Obama land grab” near the Red River.

“The main strategy for Commissioner Bush is to do a great job and govern conservatively,” Spieckerman said. “Actions speak louder than words. He’s proving he should be re-elected.”

But some have raised questions about that record, particularly Bush’s handling of the Alamo and Harvey recovery efforts. State lawmakers have criticized Bush for putting the management of the Alamo under three nonprofits that are often shrouded in secrecy. An internal GLO audit, leaked to the media in February, found that the agency’s use of the nonprofits to manage the storied landmark was overly complicated and led to practices that run afoul of state requirements.

The agency has also been marked by its slow response to Hurricane Harvey. Six months after the storm, the Associated Press found efforts to provide short-term housing and emergency repairs following the storm have lagged well behind previous post-disaster efforts in other states.

Bush’s opponents have seized on those issues to argue they would do a better job leading the General Land Office. Spieckerman said Bush’s “political enemies” have fanned the flames to create “baseless” stories about Bush’s record. Asked why Bush has not personally responded to those stories or attacks, Spieckerman said Bush “doesn’t have to dignify every baseless media attack with an answer.”

“He is working tirelessly. That’s how he should be focused, not on dignifying spurious and silly accusations and nonstories that are blown up,” Spieckerman said. “He has better things to do than to spend time on that.”