It was not a contest in the battle to become the GOP nominee for Texas attorney general.
Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images
For George P. Bush, the former golden boy of Texas politics, running for state attorney general after serving two terms as lands commissioner shouldn’t have been too difficult. This son of Jeb and Columba Bush, looking like a movie star and of Latino heritage, had managed to become the only member of his family to get along with the new leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump. Additionally, the incumbent, Ken Paxton, had become the most frequently charged and wanted elected official in Texas, making him an ostensibly soft target.
But after Bush forced Paxton to a runoff in a March 1 primary, all was down for the dynastic heir to two US presidents and governors of Texas and Florida. Paxton crushed Bush by a 68-32 margin, making the loser a potential political has-been at the ripe old age of 46. mattered the most. Efforts by Bush and two other defeated chief rivals to shame Texans over Paxton’s outrageous tenure seem to have just bolstered his self-image as a MAGA outsider persecuted for his righteousness, much like the twice impeached 45th president.
Like Texas Grandstand explained on the eve of Paxton’s huge victory, Bush had plenty of material to work on to label his opponent a “criminal womanizer”:
Paxton was indicted on securities fraud charges several months after becoming attorney general in 2015. In 2020, the FBI began investigating him following allegations by former deputies that he abused his office to help a wealthy donor. He denied wrongdoing in either case.
Bush said legal issues make Paxton unsuitable for the job and could risk the important Republican seat in November. And he increasingly attacked Paxton over an even more personal issue: an affair he allegedly had that ties into the FBI investigation.
Separately, Paxton is in an open argument with the state bar, which is suing him over his lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in four battleground states.
This latest scandal is the gift to Paxton that keeps on giving. In MAGA-land, Paxton’s starring role in the boldest effort to reverse the 2020 election results (joined by 16 other Republican attorneys general) is legal tender. It had no legal merit, as his tormentors at the Texas bar keep pointing out, but few Republican voters cared as long as he was fighting the good fight for Trump. For his part, Paxton ran ads calling his second-round opponent “liberal land commissioner George P. Bush,” presumably trading in conservative distrust of the candidate’s father, uncle and grandfather.
And in the end, it seemed there was little left of the positive part of family heritage in Texas Republican politics. Paxton won more than 70% of the vote in West Texas counties, where Yankee George HW Bush got his start in the oil business, and in Harris County, which Poppy once represented in Congress. He even got two-thirds of the vote in the county that is home to George W. Bush’s Crawford ranch. The only major county won by George P. Bush was the liberal enclave of Travis (Austin). Maybe he can make a political comeback there.