Jerry Patterson talks primary campaign, guns at Texas Tribune event

After a brief hiatus from running the Texas General Land Office, Republican Jerry Patterson wants his old position back so he can fix the agency, he said on Thursday during a conversation with The Texas Tribune’s CEO, Evan Smith.

At the event, he discussed his plans for the agency, historical conservation and guns. Here’s what he had to say:

Back from retirement. Patterson had an extensive list of grievances over Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s term in office. Previously, Patterson held the land commissioner position for 12 years until 2015, when Bush took over. Before that, Patterson represented Harris, Galveston and Brazoria counties in the Texas Senate. He said that when he left the land office, he expected to retire permanently but that he is running again by necessity and intends to go back into retirement once he’s fixed the agency. According to Patterson, here’s where Bush went wrong:

  • Hurricane Harvey relief: In an effort to seem like a “small-government Republican,” Bush opposed tapping into the Rainy Day Fund, which is part of the reason relief has been “disastrous,” Patterson said.  

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“This has nothing to do with being a fiscal conservative,” he said. “Rainy Day Fund – well, there was 52 inches. That’s what the fund is for."

  • Alamo conservation: Texans “are sick and tired” of changing historical monuments, including the Alamo, Patterson said. He took issue with the way Bush allows the Alamo Endowment Fund to run the “day-to-day functions” of the Alamo. In addition, he criticized Bush’s plans to “re-imagine” the monument.

Texas, he said, should stop trying to “politically-correct cleanse” history, whether it’s Bush revamping the Alamo or people taking down Confederate monuments.

  • Ethics concerns: The optics of a political contribution to Bush from Horne LLP, an accounting firm that provides disaster recovery services to governments, are bad “during a time when they’re supposed to be good,” Patterson said. He was referring to a November $27,500 contribution to Bush’s re-election campaign that occurred three days after the land agency signed a contract with Horne LLP for Hurricane Harvey relief services.

The country has “a nutjob problem,” but not a gun problem, said Patterson, who is known for championing gun rights and writing Texas’ concealed handgun law during his time as a state senator. In the wake of the Florida mass shooting, Patterson said what happened was a tragedy but that a decrease in guns wouldn’t stop it from happening again. Instead, Patterson called for revamping background checks, arming at least one person per school and banning bump stocks, a gun attachment that can make rifles shoot like an automatic weapon.

Disclosure: Jerry Patterson and the General Land Office have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.