The tweet went out at 2:51 yesterday afternoon, but the talk hasn’t died down since. George P. Bush wrote: “Great visit with @Patterson4TX. Updated filing. Running for
#TXLandComm. Join me at http://GeorgePforTexas.org #TX2014“And that is how the freshest face in one of the country’s oldest political dynasties officially announced his decision to run for land commissioner in 2014.
The office wasn’t exactly a surprise, though the timing was. The 36-year-old grandson of one president, nephew of another, and son of a possible 2016 candidate, Bush had filed a campaign finance report with the Texas Ethics Commission in January, though he did not specify an office. At that time, he indicated that he was leaning toward land commissioner but that he would make an announcement after the current legislative session, which ends on Memorial Day. That decision left him open to criticism that he sounded “like a dilettante: someone who thinks he’s God’s gift to Texas politics” by not coming out forcefully for a particular office.
As part of today’s unexpected announcement, Bush, who calls Fort Worth his hometown, released a 2:49 minute video that helped introduced him to voters. He explained his interest in veteran’s affairs, public schools, and energy issues and revealed that it was the calling of public service, taught to him in particular by his grandmother Barbara (known to him as “Ganny”), that has led him to run. What the video didn’t do was drill down too deeply into his political DNA—namely, what type of Republican is he, anyway? (Though the video may reveal him to be a fan of Beyonce’s. You be the judge.)
To better answer that question, look to an interview he did in January with Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune: “I am a mainstream conservative Republican. But I have endorsed Tea Party officials running, from Matt Krause, who’s joined the state House, to Ted Cruz early on in his race. So it is an interesting relationship. It wouldn’t be the first time that either Republicans or Democrats have to build multiple coalitions to work together. That’s the new Republican Party, if you will, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Bush is acutely aware of the expectations the Republican party has for him, not just because of his name but because of his background. His mother, Columba, is from Mexico, and Bush carries the promise and the burdens of a multicultural candidate who can reach parts of the electorate that have been traditionally overlooked by the Rs (though it bears some comment that he did not release a video in Spanish as well). And he announces at a moment in which his own father has recently sent out mixed signals on immigration while discussing his new book Immigration Wars, particularly on the topic of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already in the country. In December, his uncle praised the contributions of immigrants and famously called for a “benevolent spirit” in the debate over how to reform the system.
Bush will certainly be pressed to offer his own views now that he’s an official candidate, but one thing is clear. He may be running for land commissioner in 2014, but that is not his ultimate goal. Like candidates before him, he intends to use it as a stepping stone to higher statewide office in the future. It also shows that after years of a fairly stable slate of statewide officeholders, the next cycle may introduce the biggest realignment since the shifts that began in 1990. What does a possible Republican primary lineup for select offices look like next March? Here’s a highly (un)scientific snapshot of where things stand today based on conversations with a range of Capitol insiders:
Governor: Greg Abbott (the expectation is the Perry will not run again, but he can use recent favorable poll numbers to make a smooth exit from the statewide stage, I.e. He could have won if he wanted to.)
Lite Guv: Todd Staples, Jerry Patterson, and David Dewhurst (what about Susan Combs, you ask? See below)
Attorney General: Ken Paxton and Dan Branch
Comptroller: Susan Combs and Debra Medina (the incumbent has too much baggage to move up to lite guv—and she may have too much baggage to hold this seat; if she tries to defend it, she’ll draw a credible primary challenger)
Land Commissioner: George P. Bush
Agriculture Commissioner: Pick ’em
Watch George P. Bush’s video introduction below: