George P. Bush senses rare opportunity in bid for land commissioner

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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In the end, George P. Bush followed his grandmother’s advice.

He worked hard to establish himself in the business world, as former first lady Barbara Bush suggested, before considering a bid for public office.

Now at age 37, Bush said he’s ready and focused “like a laser” on winning his bid to become Texas land commissioner.

“From Day One, my grandmother’s advice was to succeed in your own right and make a name for yourself,” Bush told the Star-Telegram on Tuesday. “I feel on a personal and professional level, this is finally the right time” to run for office.

Especially when the top tier of state government may be on the verge of a shake-up next year — for the first time in more than a decade.

Gov. Rick Perry has said he will decide by July 1 whether to seek another term, potentially setting off a chain reaction among Republicans looking to run for higher office.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is poised to make a bid for governor if Perry steps aside, and Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman has said he will run for attorney general if Abbott doesn’t seek re-election.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has said he will run again, facing challenges from Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and others.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said she’s retiring at the end of her term; Bush is running for the vacant land commissioner post; and Bush’s business partner, Malachi Boyuls, is running for the Railroad Commission seat that Smitherman will vacate.

“The stars have aligned,” said Bush, who lives in Fort Worth with his wife, Amanda Williams Bush, an attorney, and their newborn son, Prescott Walker Bush. “It’s the first time in 14 years that most of the statewide offices will be opening up.

“It provides an opportunity for the next generation of leadership to step forward.”

Family ties

Political observers have long said that George P. Bush — son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, a Mexican immigrant — is an attractive candidate to Anglo and Hispanic Republican voters.

Nephew of former President George W. Bush and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, he drew national attention at age 12 when he spoke at the 1988 Republican National Convention that nominated his grandfather for president.

A Spanish-speaking attorney and asset manager, Bush threw his hat into the ring months ago for Texas land commissioner, with the blessing of his wife.

He said his experience in the Navy Reserve, where he is a lieutenant and has two years left in his eight-year commitment, gives him a key perspective on military issues. And his experience as a former public high school teacher who has served on the board of the Dallas-based Uplift Education charter system, which includes Fort Worth schools, will help him with the education aspect of the job.

Bush stresses that his work history, as well as his law degree, will help him with the financial side of the job.

‘Interesting time’

In Texas, Bush has become well-known in the workforce, most recently with St. Augustine Partners Llc., an investment and brokering service in the oil and gas industry, and in nonprofit circles for helping with everything from Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Dallas/Fort Worth Celebration of Reading effort.

He co-founded Hispanic Republicans of Texas and the Maverick Political Committee and served as deputy finance chairman for the Republican Party of Texas.

His foray into politics comes “at an interesting time,” said Jason Stanford, an Austin-based Democratic political consultant.

“He and his family have had really good timing until now and maybe he’s getting in at the last good time to just walk into statewide office,” he said.

“Maybe he’s getting in at the last possible second before Texas becomes a battleground state and he has to spend the rest of his career fighting the Castros,” Stanford said, referring to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.

Bush, who has received family help that includes tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, said he hasn’t heard of any challenger yet.

“Regardless of whether or not someone enters this race, I’m focused on how I can improve the General Land Office,” he said. “If someone enters the race, I welcome that debate. I think Texans will see I’m the most-qualified candidate for this office and I’m going to work hard for them.”

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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