In the late 1500s, William Shakespeare penned the famous line, “What’s in a name?”
Though literary scholars are confident that Shakespeare was not referring to the Lone Star State, more than four centuries later, the great English bard’s question is certainly relevant to the November elections and race for the Texas General Land Office.
George P. Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush, has been traveling the state as the Republican candidate for Texas land commissioner. He is running against Democrat John Cook.
During the years, and despite tremendous regulatory responsibility and authority, the Office of Texas Land Commissioner — the third most powerful in the state — has not garnered a great deal of media and voter attention. To the consternation of many Democrats, the Bush campaign and his name recognition has now altered the Texas political landscape and perhaps set a course for the future of the Lone Star State.
Overseen by the Texas land commissioner, the General Land Office controls $29 billion worth of state resources. This includes energy companies’ oil and gas royalties that are used to finance the state’s Permanent School Fund and a variety of veterans programs, to include land loans, retirement homes and cemeteries, which assist and benefit Texas military veterans and their families.
In his private life, the role of husband and father come first, Bush told the Herald in a phone interview earlier this week. In his professional life, Bush, 38, is a former teacher, attorney and businessman. Bush joined the U.S. Navy Reserve and served an eight-month tour as an intelligence officer in the Afghanistan War. Bush said he is dedicated to the protection and careful allocation of the state’s natural resources, public education and veterans issues.
“These are the core areas we will shine our light on and I will use my political capital to address these issues,” he said. “That is why I’m running and privileged to be the Republican candidate.”
Land and energy
Recognizing the large amount of revenue brought in to the state through the land office, Bush wants to assure voters he is committed to energy independence. He said he wants to implement a “sensible and pragmatic land policy which protects the environment and promotes economic development.”
Bush said there is a “false choice” put forth by those who are of the opinion that Texas must decide between drilling for oil on the one hand and good environmental stewardship on the other.
Bush was asked to comment on Cook’s position against hydraulic fracturing — commonly referred to as fracking — and claim that it is a drain on limited water supplies and a threat to the environment. Bush was quick to point out that fracking has provided tremendous benefit to the people of the state and that drilling, past and present, has and will continue to be carried out and regulated in a responsible manner.
“As Texas land commissioner I want to encourage hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in an environmentally responsible way so that we can secure millions more (dollars in oil/gas royalties) for our public school system in a time of fiscal constraint,” he said.
In response to his political opponent’s accusation of unethically accepting campaign support from companies which may come under the regulatory oversight of the land office, Bush said he has enjoyed broad support from individuals and businesses, which are looking to his professional background and experience to monitor and negotiate with energy companies, thereby increasing revenue for the state. Bush described himself as an anti-abortion, constitutional conservative who strongly supports the Second Amendment and the concealed carry rights of law-abiding citizens.
Speaking about the border crisis, Bush was compassionate to the plight of children who have been “clearly abused by the coyotes and the drug cartels.”
“It is a reminder of the president’s failed immigration policy and we’re witnessing the consequences,” he said.
Cook criticized Bush for ignoring invitations to debate. “It’s shameful that he (Cook) has to resort to these tactics for media attention instead of providing real solutions for Texas,” Travis Griffin, Bush’s campaign manager, said.