Much of the media is treating the end of Jeb Bush’s campaign as a moment to eulogize the Bush family dynasty.
Some are trampling on the family grave, while others are being a bit nostalgic. But in most of these pieces, an ember of hope for the legacy is missing. There’s a fourth generation already in office in Texas — Jeb’s own son, George Prescott.
George P. is getting some attention on social media, where pundits have pointed out that maybe it’s too soon to call an end to the Bush family involvement in presidential politics.
The youngest Bush, named for his grandfather and great-grandfather, was sworn in as Texas’s land commissioner in 2015 — with his father right by his side.
Few political observers think he’ll stop there. George P. is one of the state’s few high-profile Hispanic Republicans, and the state party believes his moderate views on immigration will help him bring more Latino voters into the Republican fold. And given a sterling résumé — including time spent as a public high school teacher, success as a private equity fund manager, and service in the Navy Reserve — not to mention his family connections, he has all the makings for higher office.
George P. has a great political résumé
In the years before George P. took office, he bounced between careers, building a compelling political résumé along the way. After graduating from Rice University, George P. headed back to Florida, his father’s political terrain, where he worked as a public high school teacher.
He changed course in the early 2000s, attending law school and clerking for a federal judge. He went on to have a lucrative business career, managing a real estate private equity firm.
Then in 2007, he joined the Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer, a position that later deployed him to Afghanistan for an eight-month stint.
And even as Bush built his business and military credentials, he began quietly asserting himself in Republican politics. In 2009, he became the national director of Maverick PAC, a national organization aimed at recruiting young people to Republican politics. At the same time, he co-founded Republican Hispanics of Texas, a PAC whose motivation is self-evident.
Which brings us to what is perhaps Bush’s biggest asset: his Hispanic identity, a physical and cultural marker that set him apart from his more patrician family members.
"It's as if the ruling class kept pumping out new, less WASPy, more modern products to keep up with changing demand," Atlantic writer Molly Ball wrote when Bush first publicly acknowledged he was considering political office.
George P.’s current office is a gateway to higher office
His current post might sound like small potatoes, but the state land commissioner is a high-profile position in Texas, responsible for managing the state’s lucrative mineral preserves and its oil and gas royalties. Together, that constitutes big business for the Texas economy.
In an interview with the Associated Press early on in his campaign, George P. said he’d decided to run for the semi-obscure office because it best suited his skill set — not out of any particular desire to use it as a launching pad.
Unsurprisingly, though, the office happens to be an oft-trodden stepping stone for other politicians who have ascended through the ranks of Texas politics. David Dewhurst, the former lieutenant governor, once held the post. (And, as you’ll recall, it was thought he would next ascend to the US Senate, but for a right-wing challenge from an insurgent candidate named Ted Cruz.)
George P. has kept his head down for most of the past year, quietly trying to build a reputation for himself by streamlining the workings inside the land office and cutting its budget, an achievement he can later tout.
But even now, he is positioning himself for higher office, albeit as an ambassador to a future generation of more diverse Republican voters. It’s a dangerous course for a politician aspiring to national office — his views on immigration reform, in particular, put him out of step with the national Republican electorate. But it’s an appealing pitch for the Texas state party, which is desperate to make inroads with the state’s ever-growing Hispanic population.
He seems self-aware of the issues with the Bush family name
Even so, the younger George has certainly never sought to disentangle himself from the Bush family. At age 12, he led the Pledge of Allegiance at the 1988 Republican National Convention where his grandfather George H.W. was nominated. He later starred in presidential campaign commercials for his uncle George W.
As early as 2003, George P. hinted at future political ambitions, following the precise playbook of his forebears. Repeating advice given to him by his grandmother, Barbara, Bush said she told him to "make a name for yourself, have a family, marry someone great, have some kids, buy a house, pay taxes, and do the things everyone also does instead of just running out and saying, 'Hey, I'm the nephew of or the son of or the grandson of...'"
By 2013, George P. had followed that advice to a tee and was ready to launch a political bid of his own. Like clockwork, his family’s donor apparatus fell in place. In July of that year, more than 15 months before his election, Bush had raised $3.3 million for his land commissioner campaign — despite the fact that no Democrat had emerged to challenge him.
At the same time, the youngest Bush displayed a keen sense of the limits of his family name. In an interview he gave in 2006, George P. openly spoke of "Bush fatigue" when discussing his own father’s presidential ambitions — a prediction that proved prescient in hindsight. It remains to be seen whether that fatigue will fade if the young scion follows in his elders’ footsteps.