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Land Commissioner George P. Bush is sending strong signals that he is preparing to launch a primary challenge against Attorney General Ken Paxton in the hopes that they will focus on Paxton’s legal issues and the way he ran his office can.
But can Bush stop former President Donald Trump from doing so – figuratively as well as literally?
This is one of the most noticeable questions as the foundation stone for the state-wide elementary school in Texas will be laid next year. Both men were Trump supporters, but Bush has a unique history with the former president as the most prominent member of the Bush political dynasty embracing Trump. And in recent months, Paxton has only grown more open about his affiliation with the former president, which has made him an inevitable topic on Paxton’s re-election bid.
Bush has insisted that there is no separation between him and Paxton when it comes to supporting Trump. But even some of Bush’s supporters admit that, fair or not, Bush would have to struggle with running with a last name that still evokes strong emotions among Trump supporters.
“It is very unhappy for him because George P. Bush is his own man,” said Eric Mahroum, Trump’s assistant director of state during the 2016 campaign in Texas – and an early Bush supporter to challenge Paxton. “I’m trying to educate the grassroots … that no, he supported us so much and helped us. He was ready to do anything to get us over the finish line in 2016. “
Mahroum said his respect for Bush “just went to another level” when he backed Trump in the summer of 2016 and urged the Texas Republicans to unite behind the candidate. Mahroum suggested that it took Paxton longer to “come out vocal” for Trump.
Paxton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the story. But it didn’t completely ignore Bush, calling him “a potential adversary who is more interested in the narrative put forward by the liberal media than in the real and important problems faced by families and small businesses in Texas” last month are.”
This came after Bush said he was “seriously” considering challenging Paxton, saying that “the top Texas law enforcement officer must be above reproach”. Paxton has been charged with government securities fraud for most of the time since taking office in 2015. More recently, he has been reportedly investigated by the FBI on allegations by former senior MPs that he had abused his office to help a wealthy donor. Paxton has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
Bush has invited supporters to a “campaign launch rally” on June 2nd in Austin. An invitation from The Texas Tribune does not specify the office for which Bush is running, but describes him as the “next generation of conservative leadership”.
Bush and Paxton both benefited from Trump’s endorsements when they ran for re-election in 2018, and Bush heavily promoted Trump’s endorsement when he fought off three main opponents. Bush also had the support of Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., who was supposed to lead a fundraiser for Bush’s re-election campaign but canceled it amid continued criticism of the Trump presidency from Bush’s father, former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on whether the former president would take sides in a Bush-Paxton primary. Donald Trump Jr. is personally close to Paxton, although according to a source familiar with his thinking, he currently has no plans to engage in a possible primary battle.
It remains to be seen how much support Paxton himself would get from other top Republicans in Texas in a competitive elementary school. He caused a stir earlier this month after the New York Times published a story saying he didn’t believe Governor Greg Abbott supported him in the re-election, so he didn’t support him. Paxton was quick to say he actually supported Abbott for another term, but the damage was done.
“Unlike Ken, I support Governor Abbott and I think he has done a lot more for the state of Texas than Ken will ever do,” Bush said in a radio interview on Wednesday.
On Thursday, US Senator John Cornyn declined to give Paxton a vote of confidence for re-election. When asked if he would support Abbott for another term, as well as other national officials who stand for re-election next year, including Paxton, Cornyn told reporters, “My personal relationship with Governor Abbott is that I will support his re-election . Plus, I’m really not interested in getting involved in primaries. “
Paxton could at least count on the support of the Republican Attorneys General Association, of which he was previously chairman. RAGA spokesman Johnny Koremenos noted in a statement on the story that the group “has a long history of supporting incumbent Republican corporations.” Last year, RAGA stood by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill when he faced three internal party challengers in a groping scandal that resulted in his losing his legal license. Hill was eventually defeated in a state GOP convention.
Bush was a supporter and substitute for his father when Jeb Bush clashed with Trump in the 2016 primary. The two acted bitter attacks, and Trump spared no other members of the Bush family, blaming George W. Bush for September 11th and preparation for the Iraq war.
Like his father, Bush did not support Trump when he became the alleged GOP candidate in May 2016, and he declined to attend the Republican National Convention that summer. In an interview with the Associated Press at the time, he said that Trump “has the ability to win us over if he clarifies many of his remarks, and he shows that he has humility and that he does not use the character of the people as a motivating factor for that Why is he running for office. “
But as chairman of the Texas GOP’s 2016 Victory Efforts, which were responsible for driving the Republicans up and down the November ballot, Bush had a choice to make. During a meeting with Republican activists in early August, shortly after the convention, Bush threw his support behind Trump and admitted it was a “bitter pill to swallow” for “Team Bush,” but urged the Texas Republicans to back off unite to defeat Hillary Clinton.
“I did not cause any controversy,” said George P. Bush in a television interview after the elections. “My family understands my position.”
In the months that followed, his family members continued to raise awareness of their opposition to Trump. The two former family presidents – the late George HW Bush, who was Bush’s grandfather and George W. Bush, who is Bush’s uncle – particularly declined to endorse Trump in 2016. But the land commissioner didn’t look back and stepped into office as a reliable booster from Trump.
After Trump approved Bush for re-election in 2018 and helped him win a four-way primary with 58% of the vote, the former president continued to revel in Bush’s unique status in his family. During a visit to Texas in August 2019, Trump brought Bush on stage and said he was the “only Bush who likes me” and the one who “got it right”.
“I like him,” said Trump. “He goes far. He goes to places. “
When it became known in June 2020 that George W. Bush was not planning to endorse Trump for a second term – and that Jeb Bush wasn’t sure how he would vote – George P. Bush made sure he parted ways.
“I approved President Trump in the 2016 election cycle and plan to do so again in 2020,” said George P. Bush in a statement.
In particular, Bush stayed out of the fight after Trump lost re-election and falsely claimed for weeks that the election was stolen – claims that coincided with Paxton’s December lawsuit in question in Trump’s defeat in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin was asked. After Joe Biden was sworn in, Bush quickly issued a statement congratulating him and promising to be part of the “loyal opposition.”
Most recently, Bush joined Trump’s efforts to remove Wyoming US Representative Liz Cheney from the GOP leadership of the House. Cheney voted to indict Trump earlier this year and has continued to speak about her belief that the GOP must deviate from the former president.
When Bush spoke on the radio minutes after the news of Cheney’s fall, he called it a “good cause”.
“Instead of training fire on the President, you really should have trained fire on Biden and this agenda, and … I think that’s what you want from your leadership,” said Bush, “and unfortunately … is they didn’t get up to the challenge. “
Cheney is the daughter of Dick Cheney, who served as Vice President when George W. Bush was President.
Bush’s allies say he may never be able to completely distance himself from the anti-Trump brand that his family has nurtured. However, they are confident that voters will see that he has navigated as his own man for the past few years.
“Oh, there will always be, but … I owe my respect for George P. to George P.,” said Adrienne Peña-Garza, the chairman of the Hidalgo County GOP, who personally supports Bush in taking on Paxton . “No disrespect to his family – I really appreciate how he built his own career as a young man. He’s a fellow man and I think people will see that and believe that. So I don’t think he’s going to have a hard time at all [navigating the Trump dynamic]. ”
Like Bush, Paxton did not accept Trump immediately after supporting someone else in the 2016 primary – in this case US Senator Ted Cruz from Texas. However, Paxton attended the 2016 national meeting and declared his support for Trump there. He planned to “support him, vote for him, tell everyone to vote for him”.
After Trump entered the White House, Paxton stepped up as one of the pro-Trump attorney general in the county, most notably leading the lawsuit seeking the complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
However, Paxton hugged Trump even closer in his final weeks in office. He led a lawsuit against the 2020 election results in four battlefield states that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately refused to hear. He spoke at the pro-Trump rally that preceded the deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol in January. And at the end of February, he and Trump went to the golf course at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.
There was even speculation that Paxton might be included in Trump’s final series of pardons before he stepped down.
Paxton’s legal troubles undoubtedly fuel the movement to knock him out in elementary school. Another early supporter of Bush’s likely challenge to Paxton – Manny Ramirez, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers’ Association – said Paxton had been a “good law enforcement partner,” but the attorney general had to be “undoubtedly qualified and able to doing the job without the distractions. “
As for voters, who are concerned about how much Bush and Paxton supported Trump, Ramirez said: “Only option 1A and option 1B will be chosen.”