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McNeely: Another Bush on the block

By Dave McNeely
Nov. 21, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Happy Thanksgiving. Yet another Bush is running for office - possibly land commissioner - said his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

It's George P. Bush, son of the younger brother of former President and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Here's part of Jeb's letter to his donors, asking them to give to his son:

While the election is in 2014, it is important to show early financial support, particularly in a state as big as Texas. ...

George's experience and skills match the job. In business, he has helped build a successful real estate fund business, and practiced law. In addition, he currently serves as an Intelligence Officer in the Navy Reserves. ... (H)e served in Afghanistan for nine months last year.

Politically, George has earned the right to run by being Chairman of MAVPac, which is now a national organization, Chairman of Hispanic?Republicans of Texas, an active surrogate of the Romney/Ryan ticket and Deputy Finance Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.

The George P. campaign said the office sought could be attorney general, comptroller, or another office to be named later.

Land commissioner has often been used as a launching pad for higher office.

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was land commissioner for four years before being elected to his current post in 2002.

His predecessor, Democrat Garry Mauro, after 16 years as land commissioner was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1998. Mauro lost, of course, to then-Gov. George W. Bush.

Mauro's predecessor, Democrat Bob Armstrong, after 12 years as land commissioner, also ran for governor in 1982. He finished third in the Democratic primary.

Current Republican Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is talking about a campaign for lieutenant governor.

It probably was just a matter of time until George P., 36, decided to become the latest Bush officeholder in Texas. After all, he got his undergraduate degree from Rice University in Houston, and law degree at The University of Texas.

And he starts off with tremendous name identification, like uncle George W., because he will be the third George Bush to appear on a Texas ballot. Bushes have been on the ballot in 10 elections since 1964.

All this Bushiness was made possible, of course, by George P.'s grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush - particularly in Texas.

The patriarch was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1964 and 1970, losing both times. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms in between those Senate races.

In the 1970s, he was ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, envoy to China, and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

And then, after an unsuccessful run for president in 1980, rival Ronald Reagan chose him as his vice-presidential candidate. The senior Bush was the nation's vice president for eight years, and president for four, before being unseated in 1992 by a tag-team of Democrat Bill Clinton and Independent H. Ross Perot.

The point is, the George Bush name was so well known by 1994 that when George W. decided to run, it scared off other Republicans who might have run. As George Bush, he started with millions of dollars worth of name identification - plus Dad's golden fundraising Rolodex.

Former Texas Comptroller John Sharp, a Democrat, lost to Republican Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry for lieutenant governor in 1998. Perry's vote total was almost 700,000 fewer than Bush's, but he still nosed out Sharp by less than 2 percent.

Sharp tried again in 2002, when Dewhurst was the GOP candidate.

Sharp said then that Texas was not a Republican state, but a Bush state - that the fact of the Bushes on Texas ballots had torqued the state's leanings. But like other Democrats, Sharp was beaten by Dewhurst in the first election after the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Sharp is now the chancellor of Texas A&M University, his alma mater. He agreed in an interview Nov. 15 that Texas is now, for sure, a Republican state. And he presumes that if George P. Bush runs for land commissioner, or something else, he'll probably win the Republican nomination, and thus the general election.

Bush's grandfather, George H.W., the 41st president is known as "41" in Washington shorthand. George W. is referred to as "43". Now, will there be another George Bush known as "46" or "47"?

Meanwhile, perhaps the most interesting question about George P. Bush - aside from the fact that we don't know much about his qualifications - is if he will follow uncle George W. and use his middle initial (W) as his campaign logo.

"P" - for Prescott, another old Bush family name - may not make it. But you never know.

<em>- Dave McNeely is an Austin-based columnist who writes about Texas politics.</em>



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