George P. Bush isn’t holding back as he primary challenges Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Bush, the two-term Texas land commissioner and the last member of the Bush political dynasty – which over four generations has produced two presidents, a vice president, a senator, two governors and a congressman – pointed to the legal controversies facing Paxton and told Fox News he’s “a conservative advocate for the state of Texas but without the baggage.”
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Paxton is facing felony securities fraud charges in a case that dates back six years and has hovered over him during his entire tenure as attorney general. He denies any wrongdoing and has claimed the charges are politically motivated.
But Paxton is also the focus of a separate FBI corruption investigation for allegedly abusing his office to benefit a wealthy donor.
“For many years now, Texans know that their top cop has been under securities fraud indictment and very concerned about that, and last November it became clear with eight of his top lieutenants alleging everything from bribery to corruption that many at the grassroots level in our state want a change in leadership,” Bush said Thursday morning in an interview on “Fox & Friends.” “I believe Texas Republicans should have a choice when it comes to their top cop.”
“This is about the fitness, the competence of running the state’s most important law firm,” Bush argued. “It requires somebody to be above reproach. It’s really hard to claim the moral high ground on issues like human trafficking and illegal immigration and backing the thin blue line in our state if you yourself are facing significant criminal investigations and allegations.”
Hours earlier, as he announced his campaign Wednesday evening in Austin, Texas, Bush was even more blunt, saying, “enough is enough, Ken. You’ve brought way too much scandal and too little integrity to this office…it’s time to go.”
Two weeks ago, Paxton took aim at Bush, saying in a radio interview that “he’s kind of got this mentality that he’s going to be president some day and he’s got to get started. That’s it.”
And Paxton charged that Bush is “not going to run against me on the issues because he’s not competent to do the job….has really no experience in practicing law.”
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Paxton campaign spokesman Ian Prior, responding to Bush’s announcement, spotlighted the attorney general’s conservative credentials.
“Texans know Attorney General Paxton’s rock-solid conservative record,” Prior emphasized. “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.”
It’s no surprise that Paxton’s spokesman showcased the attorney general’s support for the former president, who remains extremely popular among Republicans in Texas and across the country as he aims to play a kingmaker’s role in the 2022 GOP primaries and also flirts with a 2024 run to try to win back the White House.
Paxton, a Trump supporter and ally, made headlines following now-President Biden’s victory over Trump in November’s election when he led an unsuccessful legal effort to push the Supreme Court to overturn the election results. And since Biden has taken over in the White House, Paxton has been aggressive in challenging the new president’s policies in court.
Trump has long been a very vocal critic of Bush’s uncle, former President George W. Bush, who was also a two-term Texas governor. And Trump attacked, humiliated, and crushed Bush’s father – former two-term Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. In return, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush have long been critical of Trump, as were their parents, the late former President George W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush.
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But the younger Bush has stayed far from his family’s verbal battles with Trump. After his father ended his bid for the 2016 GOP nominated, George P. Bush ended up supporting the man who savaged his father as “low-energy Jeb.” He also endorsed Trump’s 2020 reelection.
“Great to speak with President Trump to discuss the future of Texas and how we are keeping up the fight to put America first. I appreciate the words of encouragement and support. Big things coming soon!” Bush teased in a tweet last week, ahead of his campaign launch.
And he said on “Fox & Friends” that he and the former president “had a great conversation a few days ago. He sent me his best. He had great words of encouragement.”
Bush’s strategy, according to Republican strategists in Texas that spoke with Fox News, is to try to prevent the former president from endorsing Paxton. The day after Bush’s Trump tweet, the former president issued a statement confirmed by Fox News, saying, “I like them both very much. I’ll be making my endorsement and recommendation to the great people of Texas in the not-so-distant future.”
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The Austin-based GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, who’s also chair of the Travis County GOP, predicted to Fox News that “Trump’s endorsement in this race could be decisive.”
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who’s running for reelection for a third term next year, says he’s not concentrating on the Bush-Paxton showdown and the other 2022 races yet, but in an interview with the Texas Tribune he complimented the attorney general, saying, “I think he’s done a very effective job in fights that we are waging together.”
Paxton spotlighted the governor’s comments as he retweeted Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek’s tweet, saying, “Thank you for the kind words of support.”
Following his “Fox & Friends” interview, Bush was headed to his first official campaign trip to the Rio Grande Valley in the southern part of Texas – where Trump made heavy inroads in last November’s election.
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Spotlighting the recent surge of migrants crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S., Bush took aim at the Biden administration.
“We need Washington, D.C., to wake up. This is a crisis on our border,” he stressed. And Bush said the crisis was caused “because of the false promises that we’ve seen from this president, who still refuses to come down to the border.”