George P. Bush to run for land commissioner

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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AUSTIN -- George Prescott Bush filed the paperwork Tuesday to run for Texas land commissioner next year, hoping to use a little-known but powerful post to continue his family's political dynasty in one of the country's most conservative states.

A Spanish-speaking attorney and consultant based in Fort Worth, Bush is considered a rising star among conservative Hispanics, and his political pedigree is hard to match.

He is the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush and the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- often mentioned as a 2016 presidential hopeful.

Bush unveiled a campaign website with a "George P. Bush for Land Commissioner" logo and a three-minute video in which he says, "Texas is an exceptional state because we as Texans are exceptional."

In the video, Bush describes spending recent months traveling the state and having hundreds of conversations with Texans -- but says he kept returning to the advice of his grandmother, former first lady Barbara Bush.

He says she taught him the importance of public service.

"If you believe, as I do, that Texas is truly an exceptional place with a rich heritage and a future of unbound potential, then I ask for your support as I run for Texas land commissioner in 2014," Bush says.

Bush has been active in politics for years. Last summer, he was promoted to deputy finance chairman of the Texas Republican Party.

Bush filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission in November signifying that he would run for statewide office next year, but he did not say which post. That touched off rumors that he could try to become attorney general or even governor.

But Bush spokesman Trey Newton told The Associated Press that Bush spoke with current Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson late Monday before amending his Ethics Commission forms a day later. Patterson plans to leave the post to run for lieutenant governor.

In a January interview with The Associated Press, Bush said he was leaning toward a run for land commissioner but didn't plan to make a formal announcement until summer.

Asked why Bush announced sooner, Newton said, "George P. has said he was looking to run for Texas land commissioner since Day One but wanted to show the proper respect for Commissioner Patterson."

Even though he had yet to officially settle on an office, Bush's campaign raised an impressive $1.3 million between early November and Dec. 31.

Patterson said he believes that running with the Bush name is "both a blessing and a curse."

Some critics accused Bush of cynically shopping for the most politically opportunistic Texas office rather than showing serious interest in one.

But Patterson said that was a mere byproduct of Bush not being ready to make an announcement.

"That's the problem you have when your last name is Bush," Patterson said. "It's impossible to control the message."

The land commissioner administers state-owned land and mineral resources.

The post has been a steppingstone to higher office: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was land commissioner before winning his current job.

Patterson described Bush as smart and qualified but stopped short of offering an official endorsement Tuesday.

Not that Bush would need the help: With his family name returning to Texas ballots, other Republicans who once eyed the office might look elsewhere.

A Democrat has not won statewide office since 1994, but Hispanics accounted for two-thirds of the state's population growth over the last decade and now make up 35 percent of its population. They tend to vote Democratic -- though the state GOP hopes Bush can change that.

His mother, Columba, was born in Mexico.

Education a priority

In the campaign video, Bush says the state knows how to honor its veterans but also notes that Texas needs to improve its schools: "It is time for true, meaningful reform to a system that fails too many of our children."

He added that Texans have a "higher responsibility of stewardship of our natural resources."

Bush says that, in addition to its work on natural resources, the General Land Office plays an important part in veterans' affairs while also overseeing investment in the Permanent School Fund, which administers funding to public school districts.

Besides Patterson and Bush, the Ethics Commission said it has only two other candidates listed as possibly running for land commissioner.

Both staged unsuccessful campaigns and simply failed to close their accounts, so it's unlikely that they will run again.

Still, Matt Glazer, executive director of the liberal advocacy group Progress Texas, said it may be too early to anoint the next Bush a future political force.

"Serving in elected office is a privilege, not a birthright," Glazer said in a statement.

"George Bush must go through the same public screening as any other candidate."

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