George P. Bush recently added more than $750,0000 to his already multi-million dollar campaign war chest, in his quest to become the state’s next land commissioner.
His fundraising efforts dwarfed those of other candidates in the race, fellow Republican David Watts of Gilmer, who raised another $7,000 for his campaign, and Democrat John Cook, who raised more than $13,000, according to recent campaign finance reports.
“He’s got the same name as two former presidents of the United States,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University. “When your name is George Bush, you are going to be able to raise money.
“People give more donations to people whose name they recognize — and people who they think are going to be winners.”
In this race, Bush and Watts are squaring off in the March 4 primary. The winner will face Cook in the November general election.
At stake is the Texas Land Commissioner post, an office held since 2003 by Jerry Patterson, a former state senator who now is in the GOP race for lieutenant governor.
The land commissioner oversees a broad variety of functions, including managing billions of dollars of state assets, investments and mineral rights, and serves as chair of the Texas Veterans Land Board and on a variety of state commissions and boards such as the School Land Board and the Coastal Coordination Advisory Committee.
Past land commissioners have sought higher office, including Republican David Dewhurst, who now serves as lieutenant governor, and Democrat Garry Mauro, who unsuccessfully ran for governor against Republican George W. Bush in 1998.
Bush — son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush — lives in Fort Worth with his wife, Amanda Williams Bush, an attorney, and their young son, Prescott Walker Bush.
The Spanish-speaking attorney and asset manager has dominated fundraising efforts, raising $772,582 in the last half of 2013, to give him $2.8 million in cash on hand, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission that reflect donations in the last half of 2013.
“We know money matters,” said Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, an associate political science professor at the University of North Texas. “If you are in a tight race, you can draw on money to do a lot of things your opponents can’t do. … Candidates need money to get their message out.”
Bush’s latest report included more than two dozen local donations, including $5,000 from the BNSF Rail Political Action Committee in Fort Worth, $10,000 from Fort Worth philanthropist Anne Marion and $10,000 from Fort Worth architect Christopher Huckabee.
Bush received $9,000 each from the Good Government Fund PAC and the PSEL-PAC, political action committees run by the Bass family. He also received $200 from the Freese and Nichols PAC, $1,800 from the Penrose Group LLC of Fort Worth and $5,000 from Compass Well Services in Fort Worth.
“The Classic 101 of running a good campaign is raise money early and raise as large a war chest as possible not only to stave off a primary challenge, but also one in the general election,” said Victoria Farrar-Myers, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
“Money isn’t everything, but it speaks volumes.”
‘Shake things up’
In the last half of 2013, Watts, an East Texas businessman, raised another $7,000 for his campaign and has $2,709.79 in cash on hand, reports show.
He received at least half a dozen donations from supporters in Tarrant County, including $200 from Michael Olcott of Fort Worth, $100 from Kelly Cannon of Arlington and $100 from Carol Cox of Arlington.
Cook, of El Paso, received the bulk of his donations from his hometown.
While he raised $13,153 during the last six months of 2013, he listed that he had no cash on hand by the end of the year, according to the campaign finance reports.
Among his filings was a more than $19,000 loan from a Tram Cook of El Paso.
Political observers say the smaller fundraising efforts put Watts and Cook at a disadvantage in this race.
“Voters are struggling to get information and money is often interpreted as a candidate’s ability to draw support,” Eshbaugh-Soha said. “The other candidates need to shake things up and get people to donate to them.”