The last Bush gets ready for Texas-sized political showdown
George P. Bush is serving his second term as Texas Land commissioner
George P. Bush is launching his campaign kickoff this week.
But the last member of the Bush political dynasty – which over four generations has produced two presidents, a vice president, a senator, two governors and a congressman – has yet to specify which office he’s seeking.
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Bush, the two-term Texas land commissioner, is likely to announce Wednesday that he’s primary challenging another statewide officeholder and fellow Republican – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
In a tweet Saturday, Bush touted that he "will NEVER stop fighting" for law enforcement.
The son of former two-term Florida governor and 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush and the nephew of former President George W. Bush, who was twice elected Texas governor, has said he’s "seriously considering" running for attorney general next year.
"We need new leadership in this high statewide executive role," he told Fox News' Brian Kilmeade in early April. "I'm taking a very serious look at attorney general."
A veteran GOP strategist in the Lone Star State described the potential showdown as "the biggest battle brewing on the ballot in 2022 in Texas … It’s going to be the toughest primary."
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And Texas-based Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak told Fox News that "a Paxton-Bush statewide primary for Texas attorney general will be an unusually high- profile, mid-ballot race in Texas."
Mackowiak pointed to what people who follow Texas politics are well aware - that "Paxton is dealing with two specific legal issues, which Bush intends to use again him."
Paxton’s facing a felony trial for securities fraud in a case that dates back six years and has hovered over him during his entire tenure as attorney general. He denies any wrongdoing and has claimed the charges are politically motivated.
But Paxton is also the focus of a separate FBI corruption investigation for allegedly abusing his office to benefit a wealthy donor.
Bush has referenced the multiple allegations and legal issues swirling around Paxton.
"There have been some serious allegations levied against the current attorney general," Bush said in an April interview with Dallas radio host Mark Davis. "Personally, I think that the top law enforcement official in Texas needs to be above reproach."
But Paxton’s legal controversies are just one of two blockbuster developments that will severely impact this likely attorney general primary showdown.
The other involves the pending endorsement in the race by former President Trump, who remains extremely popular among Republicans in Texas and across the country as he aims to play a kingmaker’s role in the 2022 GOP primaries as he flirts with a 2024 run to try and win back the White House.
"Great to speak with President Trump to discuss the future of Texas and how we are keeping up the fight to put America first. I appreciate the words of encouragement and support. Big things coming soon!" Bush teased in a tweet last week.
Trump has long been a very vocal critic of Bush’s uncle and has attacked, humiliated and crushed Bush’s father during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. In return, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush have long been critical of Trump, as were their parents, the late former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush.
But the younger Bush has stayed far from his family’s verbal battles with Trump. After his father ended his bid for the 2016 GOP nomination, George P. Bush ended up supporting the man who savaged his father as "low-energy Jeb." He also endorsed President Trump’s 2020 reelection.
Bush’s strategy, according to Republican strategists in Texas who spoke with Fox News, is to try and prevent the former president from endorsing Paxon, who has long tied himself to Trump. Paxton made headlines following President Biden’s victory over Trump in November’s election as he led an unsuccessful legal effort to push the Supreme Court to overturn the election results.
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Since Biden’s taken over in the White House, Paxton’s been aggressive in challenging the new president’s policies in court.
Paxton last week tweeted, "The Biden administration has failed us too many times. I am pulling in all my resources to stop him from destroying our country."
The day after Bush’s Trump tweet, the former president issued a statement, first reported by CNN and confirmed by Fox News, saying, "I like them both very much. I’ll be making my endorsement and recommendation to the great people of Texas in the not-so-distant future."
The Austin-based Mackowiak, who’s also chair of the Travis County GOP, emphasized that "Trump’s endorsement in this race could be decisive."
The conventional wisdom is that Trump endorses Paxton. But no one in Trump’s orbit or in Texas appears to be sure what the former president will do.
"There’s so many moving pieces. It’s hard to know what’s going on. It’s a parlor game," a GOP strategist in Texas told Fox News.
The veteran strategist, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, said, Trump’s endorsement will matter, and if there are FBI indictments, that will change everything. All the other stuff is irrelevant."
Mackowiak noted that "Paxton believes Bush is running from his left and will promote his support of the Trump agenda and leading the fight against Biden’s executive actions."
But complicating Paxton’s strategy is the possibility that two lesser-known conservative candidates may run to the attorney general’s right.
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And Paxton, who’s had trouble with fundraising amid the twin investigations, may come up short of Bush with the first state fundraising deadline just a few weeks away.
And just to stir the pot a little more and add to the confusion, with a delay in the once-in-a-decade redistricting process, the 2022 filing deadline and primary date in Texas have yet to determined.