At first glance, George Prescott Bush seems the ideal political candidate in a state where his family has been a powerful dynasty for decades.
The telegenic Texas lawyer is a grandson of 41st US president George H. W. Bush, and the nephew of George W. Bush, the 43rd. He is the eldest son of two-term Florida governor Jeb Bush and the great-grandson of US senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut. The war veteran father of two, married to blonde lawyer Amanda Williams Bush, is also Mexican-American on his mother’s side, and speaks fluent Spanish.
But that might not be enough, according to critics who accuse him of being the black sheep of the family and disrespecting the Alamo, Texas’ most treasured symbol, by bringing in modern-minded out-of-staters for its restoration.
On Tuesday, Bush, 45, and incumbent Ken Paxton beat two other Republican candidates vying to be the party’s pick in the Attorney General’s race.
Now, a critical May run-off will determine whether the fourth-generation scion will be able to shore up the family’s political legacy in the Lone Star State, analysts say.
But that’s another problem: “The Bush name is not popular in Texas anymore,” Luke Twombly, a Dallas-based political consultant and former communications director of the Texas Republican Party, told The Post.
Paxton, the Texas attorney general since 2015, has been indicted on securities fraud charges and accused of bribery and misuse of office in a civil whistleblower lawsuit, but still has the support of the state’s conservatives. He also has the endorsement of former president Donald Trump — a situation Bush hopes to reverse by invoking Trump in his campaign ads, which don’t mention the titans in his own family.
“Under the leadership of President Trump, our country was strong and vibrant again,” says Bush in a campaign video. At another point in the ad, he notes, “Like President Trump, I will not sit idly by while our freedoms are under attack, because Texas must lead the way in fighting this radical agenda.”
If Bush is trying to capitalize on his devotion to Trump, his opponents hope to end the Bush family’s political dominance in Texas, which began after George H.W. moved with his wife, Barbara, from Connecticut to the Lone Star State in 1948 to work in the oil business.
“If conservatives unite … we can end the Bush dynasty,” Paxton told a Lubbock radio station Wednesday. “The Bushes have had their chances. It’s time for the dynasty to end.”
Bush, the commissioner of the General Land Office in Texas, has faced withering criticism from both Democrats and fellow Republicans for his work restoring the Alamo historic site. He’s also been under scrutiny for his agency’s administration of veterans’ homes, where the COVID fatality rate was 25 percent at seven out of nine facilities — more than double the rate at the state’s other nursing homes during the height of the pandemic.
In his eagerness to seek endorsements from Trump, Bush has broken with members of his own family, becoming the black sheep of a clan that has little patience for Trump’s hold on the Republican party.
“I can’t imagine that George P. is getting a lot of love from his family in pursuit of the Trump endorsement,” said Twombly.
Although he likely needs Trump’s endorsement to win the race, others say Bush lacks the same leadership genes that propelled his relatives to political victory.
“Well, maybe he’s not exactly a black sheep, but Bush is not the guy,” Jerry Patterson, Bush’s predecessor on the General Land Office, told The Post. “I knew 41 and 43, and Bush is not a guy who is a leader. He’s a decent enough fellow, but if you want someone to make hard decisions, he’s out of it. He avoids controversy, puts his head down.”
As commissioner of the GLO he has played fast and loose with the Alamo, the state’s most sacred historic site, he added. Patterson was so incensed with what he called Bush’s lack of transparency and bungling of the monument’s restoration that he decided to run against him to get his old job back in 2018.
When Patterson lost to Bush in the Republican primary for the commissioner’s job, he decided to back Bush’s Democratic opponent Miguel Suazo in the commissioner’s race. He wasn’t the only one.
“Never in my memory have all primary opponents of a Republican candidate either endorsed the primary winner’s Democratic opponent or stated publicly they wouldn’t vote for the Republican primary winner,” Patterson said.
In addition to Patterson, losing Republican primary opponents in the race — Rick Range, Davey Edward and David Watts — all refused to back Bush.
“There are things that are more important than your party,” said Patterson, who ran the GLO between 2003 and 2015. “The Alamo is Texas.”
Among the criticisms of Bush’s work on the restoration of the site, which will include a new museum with a roof-top garden, is a lack of transparency and the hiring of a Philadelphia design firm who suggested incorporating modern glass walls.
“Calling in all these out-of-state so-called experts who knew nothing about the Alamo, nothing about what it means to Texas” was Bush’s first mistake, according to Range, a retired firefighter, in an interview with the Texas Monthly.
“He cannot be trusted with the future of the Alamo,” Range told the magazine. “He’s flip-flopped more times than a catfish stranded on the bank of a river.”
Despite the criticisms, Bush prominently features images of the Alamo in his campaign ads, which also include several references to Trump’s domestic policy greatest hits.
In his latest ad, Bush reminds viewers that he is a former Navy officer deployed to Afghanistan, and promises to finish “Trump’s wall.” He is filmed in dark glasses riding an all-terrain vehicle in the shadow of the wall that separates the southern border with Mexico.
“It’s such bulls–t,” said Patterson. “Every damned politician talks about the wall, but the attorney general has no impact on shutting down the border. It’s all bulls–t. It’s almost what you have to do if you are a Republican in Texas.”
Still, Patterson, like others, is hesitant to write off Bush just yet.
“Do I think he has a chance?” he said. “I think he has a chance.”
Bush’s campaign and spokesman did not return The Post’s calls and emails Thursday.