The grandson of the late President George H.W. Bush, nonprofit executive Pierce Bush, announced Monday morning that he is running for Texas' 22nd Congressional District.
Bush enters a crowded GOP primary to replace U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, whose seat was a national Democratic target even before Olson announced his retirement earlier this year. Bush made his bid official in a video playing up his experience as the Houston-based CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star.
"We face a very challenging time in our nation and, on the brink of losing a generation to an idea that socialism and free stuff, are the answers for their future," Bush said. "But we all know that socialism has failed everywhere and everyone. It's time for new leaders to stand for conservatism that empowers all Americans, placing individuals above government and ensuring that we all have the freedom to achieve success in life."
The Texas Tribune first reported Sunday evening that Bush would file for the seat, citing an email that his father, Neil Bush, sent to potential supporters. In the email, he touted his son's work in the nonprofit sector and asked friends to donate to the campaign.
The development is something of a surprise because Bush was once considering running for the neighboring 7th Congressional District, a seat once held by his grandfather. But after Olson announced his retirement in late July, Bush began being talked about as a potential candidate for that seat instead. He never publicly commented on whether he was interested in the 22nd District but said in an interview Monday afternoon that he had a deep appreciation for the area through his nonprofit work.
"For the past seven-plus years, I've been working in Fort Bend, Brazoria and Harris counties to serve thousands of kids with thousands of dedicated volunteers," Bush said. "What I realized is the 22nd District in almost every single way represents what's best about our state and our country."
Bush said he planned to move in to the district, already a point of contention in the primary. After he announced Monday morning, rival Greg Hill released a statement saying that while he has "great respect for the Bush family, I have strong doubts about any candidate who would try to parachute into our district and buy this seat." The law does not require candidates to live in the districts for which they are running.
Bush also addressed something of an elephant in the room: how he would navigate President Donald Trump, who has a famously strained relationship with the Bush family.
"When you compare the president to the alternatives that are running on the other side, there's no question that I will support his agenda and his policies, and I look forward to being a team player in Washington," Bush said. Asked if there were any areas where he disagreed with Trump, Bush said he was focused on the people of the 22nd District and being "representative of their voice and their concerns."
Pierce Bush begins his TX-22 campaign with high name identification, given his grandfather, his cousin — Land Commissioner George P. Bush — and his uncle, former Texas governor and President George W. Bush.
But it will not be an assured road for him, or any candidate. There are at least 17 other Republicans running.
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls announced his own Republican candidacy on Saturday. Bush will also face activist Kathaleen Wall, a Republican political donor who spent $6 million of her own money in an unsuccessful bid for the 2018 GOP nomination in the nearby Texas 2nd Congressional District. In addition to Hill, other Republican candidates who have already filed with the state party include Dan Matthews, Reddy Banger, Aaron Hermes, Matt Hinton, John Camarillo, Diana Miller, Joe Walz and Shandon Phan.
It is likely that no candidate will avoid a runoff by winning the majority vote needed to secure the nomination on the March 3 primary.
"Pierce will have a tough primary in March," Neil Bush wrote in the email. "There are candidates who have already announced but not one of them has gained substantial traction, giving Pierce an opportunity to sprint to a victory."
The 22nd District is a once-Republican stronghold turned sharply toward Democrats in the last cycle. Olson easily carried the district by 19 points in 2016. Facing a spirited challenge from Democrat Sri Kulkarni last year, Olson's margined shrank to a mere five points.
Democrats are promising a full offensive there and Kulkarni is running again. He will face attorney Nyanza Davis Moore and Pearland City Councilman Derrick Reed in the Democratic primary.