George P. Bush took the first step toward continuing his family’s political dynasty Tuesday, shaking off an under-funded primary challenger and securing the Republican nomination for the little-known but powerful post of Texas land commissioner.
The 37-year-old Fort Worth attorney is the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, nephew of former President and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and son of ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is frequently mentioned as a possible GOP White House hopeful in 2016.
He’s also a Spanish speaker whose mother Columba was born in Mexico and who Republican leaders statewide long have toasted as key to wooing voters among Texas’ booming Hispanic population.
“We don’t have to change our conservative principles to win, we just need to change our tactics,” said Bush, who spoke English and Spanish to the crowd at his victory party at a Fort Worth Mexican restaurant. His mother was among the attendees.
He noted that his campaign traveled to numerous heavily Hispanic areas, including making several trips to the Texas-Mexico border.
“You’ll see that we have tea party friends, that we have mainstream conservatives, we have strong Latino support and a lot of younger voters,” he said.
There was no incumbent running and Bush used his American political-royalty surname to raise more than $3.5 million while his opponent, East Texas businessman David Watts, could barely afford to travel the state.
Bush immediately becomes the overwhelming favorite in November against Democratic nominee and former El Paso Mayor John Cook.
San Antonio-based oilman Douglas Cain, who attended the Bush victory party, called the latest George Bush “a very humble, straightforward guy.”
Not everyone is convinced, though.
Casting his vote Tuesday in Dallas, Richard Lohr, a 76-year-old roofing contractor, said he was a longtime supporter of both President Bushes — but was worried about anointing a “family hierarchy” in office.
The land commissioner administers Texas’ vast, state-owned lands and mineral resources, and it’s a job that can be a stepping stone to higher office. David Dewhurst was land commissioner before becoming lieutenant governor in 2003.
Bush taught school in inner-city Miami before earning a law degree from the University of Texas and clerking for a federal judge. In 2010, he served an eight-month tour in Afghanistan with U.S. Naval Intelligence under an assumed name.