George P. Bush Considers Primary Run Against Texas AG Paxton; Both Trump Supporters George P. Bush. (Mark Wilson/Getty)
By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 17 May 2021 03:11 PM
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a member of the Bush political dynasty, has indicated plans to challenge incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton.
If Bush does enter the Republican primary, a key question will be: What role will former President Donald Trump play?
Both Bush, oldest son of former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., and Paxton have been Trump backers.
Other members of the Bush family, however, have been Trump critics. The family's two former presidents — the late George H.W. Bush, who was Bush’s grandfather, and George W. Bush, who is Bush’s uncle — declined to endorse Trump in 2016.
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to the Texas Tribune’s request for comment on whether the former president would take sides in a Bush-Paxton primary.
Some of Bush’s allies concede the land commissioner would have to contend with running with a last name that still evokes strong emotions among Trump supporters.
"It’s very unfortunate to him because George P. Bush is his own man," said Eric Mahroum, Trump’s deputy state director during the 2016 campaign. "I try to educate the base … that no, he was so supportive and helped us. He was willing to do whatever to get us across the finish line in 2016."
Mahroum said his respect for Bush "just went to another level" when the land commissioner came out in support of Trump in the summer of 2016 and urged Texas Republicans to unify behind the nominee.
"I didn’t create controversy," George P. Bush said of his support for Trump. "My family understands my position."
Paxton took longer to "come out vocally" for Trump, according to Mahroum.
Bush hopes to focus on Paxton’s legal troubles and how he has run his office, The Texas Tribune reported Monday. Bush said he was "seriously considering" challenging Paxton, saying that "the top law enforcement official in Texas needs to be above reproach."
Paxton has been indicted on state securities fraud charges for most of the time since he took office in 2015. More recently, he reportedly came under FBI investigation over allegations from former top deputies that he abused his office
The attorney has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
Paxton’s team has labeled Bush as a "potential opponent more interested with the narrative being set by the liberal media than on the real and important issues facing Texas families and small businesses."
Bush has invited supporters to a June 2 "campaign kick-off rally" in Austin.
An invitation obtained by The Texas Tribune did not specify the office for which Bush is running. It calls him the "next generation of conservative leadership."
Both Bush and Paxton benefited from Trump endorsements when they ran for reelection in 2018. Bush used Trump’s support to fight off 3 primary challengers.
Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s eldest son, also supported Bush. In fact, Trump Jr. was set to headline a fundraiser for Bush’s reelection campaign until he canceled plans after persistent criticism of the Trump presidency from Jeb Bush.
Trump Jr. also is personally close with Paxton, the Texas Tribune reported.
Paxton, who has played up his affiliation with Trump in recent months, might have trouble getting support from fellow top Texas Republicans. The New York Times published a story in which the attorney general said he did not think Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, supported him for reelection, so he did not support him.
Paxton quickly said he did back Abbott for another term, but the damage was done.
"Unlike Ken, I actually support Gov. Abbott and I think that he has done a heck of a lot more for the state of Texas than Ken ever will," Bush said in a radio interview Wednesday.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, declined to give Paxton a vote of confidence for reelection on Thursday.
"My personal relationship with Gov. Abbott is such that I will support his reelection," Cornyn said. "Beyond that, I’m really not interested in getting involved in primaries."