Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced Wednesday night that he’s running for attorney general in Texas, setting up a GOP showdown with one of the most high-profile Republican attorneys general in the country, Ken Paxton.
“I am proud to announce I am a Republican candidate to be the next Texas attorney general,” he said before supporters in Austin.
Bush came out swinging in his campaign announcement, taking shots at Paxton, who is currently under indictment for securities fraud and, separately, facing an FBI investigation for abuse of office.
“Enough is enough, Ken. You’ve brought way too much scandal and too little integrity to this office,” Bush said. “It’s time to go.”
Bush – the son of former two-term Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush and the grandson of the late former President George H.W. Bush – is running as a supporter of former President Donald Trump, despite the at-times blistering feud between Trump and the Bush family.
At a campaign kickoff event at Backyard Beer Garden in downtown Austin, supporters praised Bush as the future of the Republican Party in Texas and highlighted his support of Trump as a key credential.
“I think we can all agree that President Trump was one of the best things to happen to this country,” Karen Newton, immediate past president of Texas Federation of Republican Women, said onstage as one of the introductory speakers before Bush.
Joacim Hernandez, vice chair of the Texas Young Republican Federation, argued Bush is uniquely positioned to unite the GOP. “He has a track record of support for President Trump and his America First policies, but he also has a track record of character and integrity.”
As land commissioner since 2015, Bush has long been viewed by political observers as a rising star in the GOP. He speaks Spanish and was involved in the founding of the political group Hispanic Republicans of Texas. He was also an officer in the Navy Reserves and a former businessman, with a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.
Paxton, meanwhile, has been state attorney general since 2015 after serving in the Texas Legislature for more than a decade as both a state representative and state senator. He was highly active in filing federal lawsuits during the Obama administration – most notably, he led a 20-state challenge against the Affordable Care Act – and has filed multiple suits against the Biden administration over a range of issues from immigration to Medicaid.
A staunch ally of Trump, Paxton also led the lawsuit contesting election results in four states that Trump lost in November. The Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit.
Paxton previously said in a media interview that he’s running for reelection. His campaign spokesman Ian Prior responded to Bush’s announcement Wednesday by calling Paxton “the tip of the spear” in standing up for Trump’s policies.
“Texans know Attorney General Paxton’s rock-solid conservative record,” Prior said in a statement. “From defeating Joe Biden’s dangerous executive order halting deportations of illegal aliens, to his willingness to stand up for secure elections, Ken Paxton has been and will continue to be the tip of the spear in protecting President Trump’s America First principles.”
Clouding Paxton’s run for reelection will be the FBI investigation and separate indictment. Paxton vehemently denies the charges and allegations.
Bush made clear Wednesday night he won’t be shy in going after Paxton’s legal issues.
“We have a web of corruption and lies that affect one of the highest offices in our land and it’s time for a change,” Bush said.
Trump, who remains highly popular in Texas and influential in GOP primaries, has indicated he plans to make an endorsement in the race. Both men have sought support from Trump, and it’s unclear yet who will get the coveted nod.
While the Bush family and Trump have clashed over the years – most notably when Trump and Jeb Bush battled it out in the 2016 presidential primary – George P. Bush has supported the former President. He voted for Trump in the 2016 race against Hillary Clinton and supported him again in 2020.
“I like them both very much,” Trump said in a statement last week to CNN. “I’ll be making my endorsement and recommendation to the great people of Texas in the not-so-distant future.”
Speaking to reporters after his speech Wednesday night, Bush said he has asked Trump for his endorsement and “would love to have his support.”
Asked by CNN about the attacks Trump has made on his family, Bush conceded that “politics is a contact sport.”
“We’re at a stage in our state where, you know, we can’t let a mean tweet get in the way of doing the right thing,” he said.
Bush had made the phrase “honor and integrity” a theme of his announcement speech, echoing a refrain often used by his uncle. Asked if he thinks that message will work in his campaign, he said: “Absolutely, I can take all the tips I can get, whether it’s W or Trump.”
As for his attacks on Paxton, Bush said he doesn’t believe many Texas Republicans “know about his conduct” and there will be “plenty of opportunities” to talk about it during the campaign.
He confirmed that members of his family will hit the road for him “at some point.”
Bush will make South Texas – where Trump made heavy inroads in November – a key part of his strategy, and he plans to make his first official campaign trip to the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday.
Given his political connections and Paxton’s legal troubles, Bush is expected to raise significant cash for the race.
Matt Mackowiak, veteran GOP strategist in Texas, said the race is unusual given that two high-profile statewide officials are battling it out in a primary.
“I think George P. Bush sees an opportunity and believes he can be a more effective attorney general and that’s the case he’s going to make to voters,” he said. “I think the challenge is that Paxton is a solid conservative and the Republican primary electorate will have to be convinced that he’s not.”
This story has been updated with further developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Michael Warren contributed to this report.