By Will Weissert
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — George Prescott Bush filed the official paperwork Tuesday to run for Texas land commissioner next year, hoping to use a little-known but powerful post to continue his family’s political dynasty in one of the country’s most-conservative states.
A Spanish-speaking attorney and consultant based in Fort Worth, Bush is considered a rising star among conservative Hispanics, and his political pedigree is hard to match. He is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush and the nephew of former President George W. Bush.
Bush unveiled a new campaign website with a “George P. Bush for Land Commissioner” logo and featuring a three-minute video in which he says, “Texas is an exceptional state because we as Texans are exceptional.”
In the video, Bush describes spending the last few months traveling the state and having hundreds of conversations with a variety of people, but says he kept returning to the advice of his grandmother — former first lady Barbara Bush, whom he calls “Ganny.” Bush says she taught him the importance of public service.
“If you believe, as I do, that Texas is truly an exceptional place with a rich heritage and a future of unbound potential, than I ask for your support as I run for Texas land commissioner in 2014,” Bush said.
Bush filed paperwork last November with the Texas Ethics Commission signifying he would seek statewide office in 2014, but he did not say which office he would seek. That touched off rumors he could try to become attorney general or even governor.
But Bush spokesman Trey Newton told The Associated Press that Bush spoke with current Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson late Monday before amending his previously filed Ethic Commission forms a day later. Paterson already has announced he’s leaving the post to run for lieutenant governor.
Patterson said he believes running with the Bush name is “both a blessing a curse.” Given how he announced an impending run for an office to be named later, some critics accused Bush of cynically shopping for the most politically opportunistic Texas office rather than being seriously interested in a specific one.
But Patterson said that was a mere byproduct of Bush not being ready to make an announcement yet.
“That’s the problem you have when your last name is Bush,” Patterson said. “It’s impossible to control the message.”
The land commissioner administers state-owned lands and mineral resources. It is a post that can be a stepping stone to higher office in Texas. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was land commissioner before winning his current job.
Patterson described Bush as smart and qualified but stopped short of offering an official endorsement Tuesday. Not that Bush would necessarily need the help: with his famous name on the ballot, other Republicans who once eyed the office might now look elsewhere.
George P. Bush has been active in politics for years. Last summer, he was promoted to deputy finance chairman of the Texas Republican Party.
Bush grew up in Florida but met his wife Amanda while attending law school at the University of Texas. He later became a partner in a real estate investment company and has since started Fort Worth-based St. Augustine Partners, a business consulting firm.
A Democrat has not won statewide office in Texas since 1994, but Hispanics accounted for two-thirds of the state’s population growth over the last decade and now make up 35 percent of its population. They tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic — but many of the GOP’s top brass hope Bush can change that.
His mother — Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba — was born in Mexico.
In the video he said the state knows how to honor and respect its veterans but also notes that Texas needs to improve its schools and public education: “It is time for true, meaningful reform to a system that fails too many of our children.” He added that Texans have a “higher responsibility of stewardship of our natural resources.”
Bush describes in the video that, in addition to its key role on natural resources, the General Land Office plays an important part in veterans’ affairs while also overseeing the Permanent School Fund, which administers funding to public school districts around Texas.
Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.