Jeb Who? Meet the Next Bush
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the Latino vote could someday be the majority vote — and this Bush may benefit most from that change.
By Nick Fouriezos
He’s a gaffe-prone cowboy with a famous last name and a penchant for thanking Jesus. With ties to the energy — read: big gas — industry, he’s been accused of filling his Cabinet with oil operatives and heavy-walleted family friends. And rumor has it that the Texas politician could one day set his sights on the White House. Meet George Bush.
No, not No. 43. We’re talking about George P. Bush — nephew of Dubya, son of Jeb — who’s making waves of his own. And now that Pops has hung up his spurs, young(er) Bush is the last man standing in one of America’s most storied political dynasties. The question, though, is whether he’s still got a political future after his father’s much-publicized flameout.
This particular Bush joined the family biz in November 2014 as Texas land commissioner, winning his first political race (a victory no other Bush can claim) on a ballot that had statewide voters doing a double take on the strength of his performance. Unlike his pastier forbears, this Bush is part Hispanic — like his Mexican-born mother, Columba — in a state where Latinos are predicted to make up the majority of the electorate by 2030. Many would like to inaugurate this next-gen Bush as the new face of traditional Republicanism: an old-guard conservative who sees the country’s fastest-growing voter bloc staring back in the mirror each morning. “The modern manifestation of the party is too conservative to elect another Bush — but the party of 20 years from now is going to be a very different tenor,” says Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston. “He is the future of the party the party hasn’t realized yet.”
So far the 39-year-old has also delivered more on his Latino-wooing promise than his father, or even Ted Cruz.
To some degree, Bush’s life reads as if it were crafted by a conservative think tank. His middle name, Prescott, is an ode to his great-grandfather: former Connecticut Sen. Prescott Bush. Before he could even drink or buy cigarettes, George P. had spoken at two national Republican conventions, and, after college, he took an inner-city Miami teaching gig before attending law school at the University of Texas. It was actually his grandma — former first lady Barbara Bush — who encouraged the Houston-born, Florida-raised transplant to bulk up in another arena before entering politics. Thus came the lawyerly push: a prestigious clerkship for a federal judge and corporate and securities attorney work before the co-founding of a private equity firm. Off the clock, the Fort Worth attorney joined the U.S. Navy Reserve and did an eight-month tour in Afghanistan, got married and had two boys to round out a résumé that’s begging to be used in a political ad.
Indeed, Bush seems to have “acted deliberately” when it comes to going after a national position, Daniel Garza, executive director for the Koch-funded, Hispanic outreach effort Libre Initiative, told Fox News in 2014. But while most young politicians have to avoid looking too eager, it’s been especially important to this Bush that he doesn’t appear entitled by his mere legacy — a battle his dad knows about all too well. To accomplish this, the newbie politician has kept a simple mantra: Play down the name, play up the public service. So he’s toiled far from the spotlight while securing $125 million to renovate the Alamo, launching a “reboot” of the 179-year-old Texas Land Office and cutting 100 jobs to bolster his case as a waste-busting conservative.
So far the 39-year-old has also delivered more on his Latino-wooing promise than his father, or even Ted Cruz, whose Cuban heritage hasn’t necessarily pulled in other Spanish-speaking groups. When George P. announced his candidacy for land commissioner in September 2012, he raised $3.3 million with more than a year left before the election, and trounced Democrat John Cook, El Paso’s ex-mayor, by almost 30 points. More than that, he also won 49 percent of the Hispanic vote; other than Marco Rubio, who won 55 percent of that vote in his Senate run, no Republican has fared so well with Latino voters nationally since George P.’s uncle won 44 percent in 2004. That includes John McCain, who claimed 31 percent of the countrywide vote in 2008, and Mitt Romney, who garnered 27 percent in 2012. Needless to say, a new Texas star was born.
Critics say Bush is more interested in politicking than public service and, in Texas terminology, accuse him of getting too big for his britches. He only fed those perceptions in December when he compared his decision to run for his current post as “running for dogcatcher” during a conference call with his dad’s presidential supporters, then made matters worse by saying he was “stuck” in Texas when he’d rather be on the campaign trail. “George P. Bush has long been accused of preparing to use his office as a stepping-stone,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement to the press. “Now he has essentially admitted it.”
For his part, Bush plans to focus on serving the folks of Texas, in part by continuing his work with veterans and protecting the state’s coast, Brittany Eck, press secretary for the Texas General Land Office’s office of communications, told OZY in a statement. Bush’s “off-the-cuff moment” about the dogcatcher, Eck notes, was taken out of context — and she directed OZY to a press release that demonstrated the commissioner’s willingness “to make difficult decisions in order to effect true conservative policies.” As to what Bush feels about his own political ambitions now that his father has suspended a presidential campaign, Eck says, “We will leave the opining about the future and what it all means to the pundits.”