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Trump Endorses George P. Bush's Re-Election Bid For Texas Land Commissioner


Texas holds the first-in-the-nation primary next week. Voters will make choices in hundreds of races, including governor and U.S. senator. Further down the ballot, there's a race that could decide the future of one of America's political dynasties. From member station KUT in Austin, Ben Philpott reports.

BEN PHILPOTT, BYLINE: Voters usually don't spend much time considering their choice for Texas Land Commissioner. The office plays several important roles, but, yeah, it's kind of the bottom of the barrel when it comes to statewide races. But the office has received plenty of attention over the last three years because there's been a Bush holding the job - yes, as in that Bush family.


GEORGE P. BUSH: Hi, I'm Commissioner George P. Bush. The last four years of the Texas General Land Office have been the most conservative in the agency's history. Before...

PHILPOTT: Grandson to president number 41, nephew to number 43 and son to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and presidential candidate. That's a lot to live up to, but it was a mantle that, Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson says, George P. appeared ready to take up.

CAL JILLSON: He was a young, vibrant, good-looking guy. So he looked like a central-casting, next-generation Bush candidate starting in Texas but with national possibilities.

PHILPOTT: But this member of the fourth generation of the Bush political dynasty hasn't quite lived up to the expectations. There are questions about how well his office has handled Hurricane Harvey relief. Even worse, he's received bad press over his handling of the Alamo - you know, the one we're supposed to remember all the time. So facing an unexpectedly tough primary, George P. Bush has sought out the most coveted endorsement in Republican politics.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: President Trump said, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush backed me when it wasn't the politically correct thing to do, and I back him now.

PHILPOTT: It might be a political marriage of convenience. Back when Jeb Bush was running in the Republican presidential primary, he was candidate Trump's whipping boy.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I defined him. I gave him this term, low energy. I said he's a low-energy individual. We do not need, in this country, low energy.

PHILPOTT: That's Trump speaking on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in 2016. Trump said Jeb Bush supported illegal immigration because his wife, George P.'s mother, was born in Mexico. That didn't stop George P. from endorsing Trump after he became the Republican presidential nominee. As President Trump has rejected much of what the Bush family stood for in politics, whether it's on immigration or foreign policy, Jillson wonders whether George P. Bush can evolve in what's now Trump's party.

JILLSON: And now I think people have real questions about what the upside of George P. Bush as a politician and an officeholder actually is.

PHILPOTT: And a Bush loss? Well, that would have pundits across the country talking about the end of the Bush political dynasty. Still, it's a big family. For NPR News, I'm Ben Philpott in Austin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.