Election

As Runoff Nears, Attorney General Ken Paxton Attacks George P. Bush as a 'Liberal' and 'RINO'

In a new ad, Attorney General Ken Paxton labels opponent George P. Bush as a "liberal."
In a new ad, Attorney General Ken Paxton labels opponent George P. Bush as a "liberal." Screenshot
Land Commissioner George P. Bush comes from a dynasty of prominent Republicans who’ve held power in the White House and governor’s mansions in Texas and Florida. But to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, he’s just a RINO: Republican in Name Only.

In a campaign ad released Tuesday, Paxton attacked Bush. The two conservatives will face off in the upcoming runoff race for Texas attorney general.

Paxton’s 30-second spot warns viewers that the “radical” left is pushing for the removal of historical monuments, including those commemorating the Founding Fathers.

“Even in Texas, liberal Land Commissioner George P. Bush proposed a ‘woke’ plan to reimagine the Alamo and demanded that the monument honoring the Texas heroes who died there be moved,” the ad’s narrator continues. “In the Republican runoff for attorney general, protect our Texas heritage. Defeat George P. Bush.”
At one point, Bush’s bloodline might have boosted his chances. Not anymore.

Despite being the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, grandson of former President George H. W. Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush, who also served as Texas’ governor, George P. Bush is favored to lose.

Jason Vaughn, president of the Houston Young Republicans, said he’s supported Paxton in the past and will again if he’s the nominee in the general election. (He’ll opt for Bush in the runoff.) Even though the incumbent’s record is dotted with red flags, Vaughn believes that a midterm red wave will likely overcome those controversies, which range from alleged adultery to multiple legal battles.

Vaughn agrees with Paxton on many issues, but not when it comes to classifying his challenger as a lib in GOP clothing. “[Bush] is a little more establishment than Ken Paxton for sure,” he said, “but he’s not a liberal or a RINO.”

These days, it’s in vogue for Republican candidates to label their opponents as RINOs, Vaughn continued. But the more that term is flung against fellow conservatives, the more it loses its meaning.

"[Bush] is a little more establishment than Ken Paxton for sure, but he’s not a liberal or a RINO." – Jason Vaughn, Houston Young Republicans

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Regardless, that line of attack works because it associates Bush with his family of moderate conservatives, said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. Polling shows that 40% of Texas GOP primary voters would never vote for George P. Bush. Many cited his lineage as their reasoning.

The Bush name’s popularity plummeted during the Trump era, Jones said. Jeb and Georges W. and H. W. had all denounced the previous president’s style of politics.

That could explain why the land commissioner sidled up to former President Donald Trump in an ad last year. And why his campaign thought it was a good idea to roll out bizarre beer koozies depicting the two shaking hands.

Despite these attempts at relevance, there’s little question that Paxton will win in the Republican runoff race on May 24, Jones said. The Bush family’s positions are too out of step with mainstream Texas GOP politics.
“It’s somewhat ironic that … the surname that was so strongly associated with Republican politics in Texas for 30 years is now more of a liability than an asset in the 2022 Texas Republican primary,” he said.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter