Bush, 45 years of age, is the last member of his family still in public office, and his candidacy will test the political strength of the Bush dynasty. He kicked off his campaign with sharp attacks against Paxton for his legal troubles. Paxton has served several years in office under indictment over securities fraud and was recently accused of bribery by his former top aides. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
“Enough is enough, Ken,” Bush told a crowd of supporters in Austin. “You’ve brought too much scandal and too little integrity to this office. As a career politician for 20 years, it’s time for you to go. We need an attorney general that’s above reproach, not under criminal indictment for securities fraud and not under FBI investigation for bribery and corruption.”
Bush notably broke with other prominent members of his family in 2016 when he publicly backed former President Trump. During the 2016 primary process, Mr. Trump relentlessly mocked Bush’s father, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, as “low energy.” During a visit to Texas in April 2019, Mr. Trump said George P. Bush was “the only Bush that got it right.”
The former president could play a significant role in the high-profile GOP primary. Last week Bush tweeted a picture of himself on the phone with Mr. Trump, adding, “I appreciate the words of encouragement and support.” Paxton has been a staunch Trump ally and led an unsuccessful attempt in December to overturn President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
Mr. Trump said in a statement last week that he likes both candidates and would make a recommendation “in the not-so-distant future.”
A spokesman for Paxton’s campaign said in a statement, “Texans know Attorney General Paxton’s rock-solid conservative record.” He added that Paxton will “continue to be the tip of the spear in protecting President Trump’s America First principles.”
On Tuesday, Paxton filed a court brief denying claims of wrongdoing by former aides whom he fired last fall. His lawyers argued that those aides “expected laws might be violated, not that any law was actually violated,” which would make their claims insufficient under the state’s Whistleblower Act.
Bush was first elected Texas land commissioner in 2014. He is facing his own controversy after his office recently announced that none of the billion dollars in federal funding for flood mitigation following Hurricane Harvey would be going to Houston.
Still, Bush said conservatives should “have a choice in the Republican primary” and argued that Paxton’s ongoing legal issues make him vulnerable to Democrats in a general election.
“Democrats are all in on this race. They see that Ken Paxton is our weak link,” Bush said. “They know that if he is our nominee once again, they’ll have their first statewide elected office in close to 30 years.”