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Texas AG challenger George P. Bush: Herald of Trump-Bush dynastic alliance? Or RINO in MAGA garb?

GOP nomination duel in Lone Star state pits incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton against Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Updated: June 19, 2021 - 10:16pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

In the race for the 2022 GOP nomination to be the attorney general of Texas, the incumbent is being investigated by the state bar association — and it may not hurt him. His main opponent is the grandson of one president who called Texas home and the nephew of another — and it may not help him.

The incumbent attorney general is Ken Paxton, and his challenger is Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush (son of Jeb, nephew of George W, grandson of H.W.).

Republican strategist Jeff Roe calls the looming showdown between the two "the Holy War of Texas."

"We haven't seen a battle like this since the siege at the Alamo," Roe, who ran Sen. Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign, told Politico.

Paxton is a loyal Trump supporter and minor MAGA star, thanks to his role as an architect of a multistate legal effort to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election. He is facing a number of public scandals, including a 5-year-old indictment for securities fraud and an FBI investigation for corruption, which led to, among other things, the abrupt firing of some of Paxton's top aides last year.

Bush, the heir apparent to his family's political dynasty, is trying hard to distance himself from his family elders' public chilliness toward former President Donald Trump, to whom a significant portion of the Texas GOP electorate remains loyal.

Bush believes a change in the state AG's office is long overdue.

"For now six years, Texans are aware of security fraud charges pending against our top copper, top law enforcement office here in Texas," said Bush Thursday on "Just the News AM."

"I think a lot of our state leadership, including the governor and lieutenant governor, I was shocked and surprised by this behavior," he continued, referring to some of the accusations recently leveled against Paxton. "I'm ready for this responsibility. And I'm ready to do without the baggage and investigations and an endless scandal."

Paxton's conduct while at the helm of "the most important law firm in our state" has provoked a "mass exodus of young Christian attorneys that serve causes greater than self," Bush contends. "And so, this is about the character and the competency of running" that office.

Paxton, who also appeared on "Just the News AM" last week, calls the charges against him trumped up and politically motivated, especially the Texas bar's investigation of him for filing a "frivolous lawsuit" challenging President Biden's 2020 victory.

"I mean, I have every right as an elected officer of the people, a constitutional officer of Texas, to file any lawsuit that I want, and yet somehow I can be investigated by the state bar for filing that lawsuit," he lamented. "To me, it's purely political, and certainly is not right."

Paxton made it clear he doubts the sincerity of Bush's support for former President Trump and the policies he introduced. "I don't think he was legitimately a Trump supporter," he said. "I think his family has not supported Trump … I think I'm much more conservative than he is, he tends to be from the more moderate, liberal wing of the party."

While acknowledging that "like any family, we have our differences, particularly in politics," Bush said his vocal support for the former president and his policies does not create tension inside the family clan.

"When Bushes and Trumps come together, great things happen," he said. "I'm the only member of the Bush family to proudly endorse Trump not only in 2016, but also to help him in the reelect effort here. And I can certainly carry on his legacy a lot better than Ken could, since he was the lowest vote getter in 2018." In 2018, Paxton earned the fewest number of votes of Republicans who ultimately won their seats, defeating his Democrat opponent by almost exactly 300,000 votes. 

Both men say they are looking forward to touting their track records and job histories on the campaign trail — despite the likelihood that it will entail sharp personal attacks from both candidates, who have long maintained a friendly relationship inside Republican politics in Texas.

Paxton recently accused Bush of renewing his law license for the first time in a while back in October of 2020. "This isn't a place for rookies ... and we don't necessarily want a guy that would be kind of a beginning associate at a law firm," he recently told the John Solomon Reports podcast. (Bush has held a law license in Texas since 2003, when he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin.)

Beyond their records, scandals, and political lineages, Paxton and Bush will next need to focus on the all-important, make-or-break 2022 endorsement from Donald Trump himself. Trump endorsed both of them in their respective 2018 primaries, but this time around is an entirely different situation.

For his part, Trump has made a point of steering clear of a number of contentious intra-Republican battles thus far. But he has pledged to make a public choice in Texas.

"I like them both very much," Trump said recently. "I'll be making my endorsement and recommendation to the great people of Texas in the not-so-distant future."