The seeds of political ascension for a member of the Bush family may have been planted in an Austin eatery whose name conjures up images of Janis Joplin jam sessions.
After Election Day in 2006, George P. Bush — the son of former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and the nephew of former President George W. Bush — met with a friend at Threadgill's to discuss how to propel more Hispanics within the ranks of the Republican Party.
More than five years later, Bush, who along with two siblings was dubbed one of “the little brown ones” by his grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, is in Austin discussing how the 18-month-old Hispanic Republicans of Texas Political Action Committee, which he co-founded, moves ahead after redistricting.
“There really wasn’t an entity that was focused on the campaign finance element of Hispanic outreach, nor was there really an entity that was doing the blocking and tackling and mechanics of educating Latinos to actually run for office,” Bush, a 35-year-old lawyer, said of the PAC’s genesis.
Its board includes lawyers, former aides to government officials, advertising executives and a professor, who are working to reach a traditionally blue-collar demographic. Bush said that is part of the message.
“They represent the American dream and are less than a generation from very humble origins,” Bush said of the board members, who have endorsed candidates from myriad backgrounds.
“This organization is also meant to be aspirational, and I think the Hispanic community is aspirational,” said Bush, whose mother is from Mexico.
Democrats say the PAC faces an uphill battle.
“They are delusional if they think they’re making any inroads with Latinos,” said Rebecca Acuña, a Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman. “In Texas, there are 668 Democratic Hispanic elected officials to the 60 in the Republican Party.”
Though Bush is careful when speaking about his own goals, he says he is inextricably linked to politics. For now, however, he is content with his role with the PAC.
His future political success could hinge on how Republicans move forward on specific issues. He supports portions of the DREAM Act, and said he thinks most Republicans would also favor at least certain aspects of it, including a pathway toward legalization for illegal immigrants if they serve in the military.
He also calls himself a “George W. Bush” Republican on other aspects of immigration reform.
“That is essentially securing the border, placing an importance on that,” he said. “In terms of folks already here? Figure out a way where they can be taken out of the shadows and contribute to society and provide an opportunity to contribute and pay their fair share.”
Like his uncle, he also supports the U.S. government’s efforts to aid Mexico in that country’s battles against organized crime.
“My opinion is that we both have a vested national security interest and increasingly [the cartel wars] are infringing upon our national security,” he said. “Therefore, collaboration at the highest level is called for and that means continued collaboration on intelligence and information-sharing.”
It was under President George W. Bush that the U.S. and Mexico signed the Mérida Initiative, an aid package of about $1.5 billion that provides equipment, technology and training to Mexico.
George P. Bush said he wishes he spoke more Spanish, his first language, but it has faded from his life due to a lack of practice. He advocates that Hispanics in America should learn English.
“Whether we like it or not, it is the language of commerce in our country,” he said. “That is not meant to be in a dispirited tone.”
Bush knows speculation about his future will persist. In some circles he has already been dubbed “47.” The talk is flattering, he said.
“I’d love to keep the door open. Politics is in my blood,” he said.