Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has decided to challenge current Commissioner George P. Bush in next year’s Republican primary and is expected to announce his candidacy Monday, several sources said Friday.
Patterson led the state’s General Land Office from 2003 to 2015, giving up the job to run unsuccessfully (he finished fourth in a four-man GOP primary) for lieutenant governor. Patterson was elected to the state Senate in 1992, upsetting a Democratic incumbent in a Southeast Texas district. In 1998, he ran for land commissioner instead of re-election, losing to David Dewhurst in the GOP primary. Patterson ran again four years later, when Dewhurst was running for lieutenant governor, and won the first of three terms as land commissioner.
Bush, the grandson of one former president and the nephew of another, was elected land commissioner in his first try at elected office in 2014. He’s running for re-election in 2018 with two issues on his plate: “Reimagining the Alamo,” a project that has brought some criticism of his office and has the Texas Senate asking him for greater transparency, and the task of helping victims of Hurricane Harvey with housing issues.
Patterson has been a regular critic, recently sending an editorial contrasting the land office’s response to Hurricane Ike, when he was in charge, with its response to Harvey this year. “Harvey victims still living in tents along the coast are, at least in part, victims of a politician’s desire to look good for the next election by being a ‘small government Republican’,” Patterson wrote in what looks like a preview of his political campaign.
Bush is planning to seek another term and has already drawn a Democratic opponent; Austin lawyer Miguel Suazo is set to announce his candidacy this morning.
Disclosure: The Texas General Land Office and Jerry Patterson have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.