WILL WEISSERT,Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — George P. Bush is raising money for his Texas land commissioner campaign at a clip befitting his famous political pedigree, saying Monday that he collected $2 million during the first six months of the year for a race that looks to be a slam dunk.
Bush spokesman Trey Newton told The Associated Press that the campaign will report $2.6 million in cash on-hand in filings to the Texas Ethics Commission reflecting the Jan. 1 to June 30 reporting period. Such a large war chest is unprecedented for land commissioner — especially since no Democrat has yet emerged to challenge Bush for the office.
“I’m very excited,” Newton said.
Texas rules prohibit officeholders from fundraising until 20 days after the regular legislative session, which ended May 27. While candidates can ask for money, they can’t formally accept any until June 17 and then must report what they’ve collected after June 30. Those limits don’t apply to Bush, though, because he doesn’t yet hold elected office.
The grandson of one former president and nephew of another, Bush raked in $1.3-plus million in his first eight weeks of campaigning last year. But that total included large donations from his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and his uncle, ex-President George W. Bush.
Newton said Bush’s latest haul included 1,600 contributors and no major family donations. Bush did, though, hold two Texas fundraisers in May with his uncle and his grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush — and those accounted for his largest spikes in contributions.
Newton also noted that Bush had to put his campaign on hold twice this cycle so he could report for continuing duty as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves and because his wife Amanda gave birth to the couple’s first child, a baby boy named Prescott, in June.
Bush, 37, formally announced he was running for land commissioner in March, ending speculation he could have his eye on a better-known post like state attorney general or even governor. He says it’s the post that best suits his skill set.
Born in Houston, Bush grew up in Florida where his father was governor from 1998 until 2007. He graduated from and played baseball for Rice University in his birth city before teaching school in inner-city Miami and working on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign.
Bush earned a law degree from the University of Texas and clerked for a federal judge, then later founded a capital company in Fort Worth. In 2010, he served an eight-month tour in Afghanistan with U.S. Naval Intelligence.
His candidacy has been cheered by Republicans throughout Texas who see him as a way to improve the party’s standing among Hispanic voters. Bush is a Spanish-speaker whose mother was born in Mexico.
A Democrat has not won statewide office since 1994, but Hispanics tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic and accounted for two-thirds of Texas’ population growth over the last decade.
Current Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is running for lieutenant governor in 2014, creating a vacancy in his office, which oversees oil and mineral rights that help fund public school statewide and also administers benefits to military veterans.
Patterson said Monday that he had raised $417,000 between June 17 and 30 and now has $1.3 million in cash-on-hand in a Republican lieutenant governor’s primary contest that also includes Agricultural commissioner Todd Staples and state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston. Current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst also says he plans to seek re-election.
“It’s pretty strong for 13 days of work,” said Patterson who said he will need about $3 million more if he hopes to make it to a runoff election involving the primary’s top two finishers.
Patterson likened a race featuring so many big names to a sweeping Hollywood production saying “I half expect to see Charlton Heston.”
“It’s a cast of thousands. But they’re all credible,” Patterson added. “They’re all friends of mine.”