AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Pierce Bush, a grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, launched a Texas congressional run on Monday and aligned himself with President Donald Trump, who his late grandfather blasted as a “blowhard” and voted against in the 2016 campaign.
In an interview with The Associated Press, he pushed back on whether that support was difficult to summon in the face of Trump’s antagonism toward his famous family, which Trump has mocked during his no-holds-barred takeover of the GOP.
“When you look at the alternative first of all, how can you be anything but a supporter of the president’s policies?” Pierce Bush, 33, told the AP. “I look forward to being a partner in Washington, and speaking of course with my own voice, but supporting the president’s agenda.”
George H.W. Bush, who died last year, voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. His son, President George W. Bush, didn’t vote for either Trump or Clinton.
“This is not about my family. This is about the families of the 22nd Congressional District,” Pierce Bush said.
His first run for office won’t be easy. Bush joins one of the nation’s most crowded congressional races of 2020 in his bid to replace Republican Rep. Pete Olson, who is retiring from his suburban Houston district that Democrats nearly flipped last year and are aggressively targeting again.
At least one of of Bush’s rivals in the race considered him unwelcome. Greg Hill, a former Border Patrol agent who is also running as a Republican, expressed respect for the Bush family in a statement but said he had “strong doubts about any candidate who would try to parachute into our district and buy this seat.”
Pierce Bush’s announcement video, rolled out on the deadline in Texas for candidates to get on the 2020 ballot, includes an image of him speaking next to a picture of his late grandfather. He says in the video that the nation is “on the brink of losing a generation to an idea that socialism and free stuff are the answers to their future.”
Pierce Bush, whose father is Neil Bush, has spent the past three years as chief executive of the nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters in Texas. He made no mention of Trump in his announcement video and launched his campaign website with only a short biography and no positions on issues or policies.
Pierce Bush told AP the impeachment hearings unfolding against Trump in Congress were a distraction and did not directly answer when asked whether he believed Trump had done anything improper.
“It’s an attack-at-all-costs politics,” Bush said of the impeachment case. “It’s a part of the problem.”
The only Bush currently in public office, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, broke with his family in 2016 and supported Trump even after he mocked his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as “low energy” during the 2016 presidential campaign. During a visit to Texas earlier this year, Trump introduced George P. Bush as “the only Bush that likes me.”
Olson is one of six House Republicans in Texas retiring next year, and he might have faced a tougher re-election battle than any of them. Once a seat of GOP power — former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay held the office before Olson — the district is rapidly shifting amid demographic changes and Democrats peeling off suburban women voters.
Olson narrowly won his seat by fewer than 5 points in 2018. The district covers Fort Bend County, one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the nation. Last week, the county’s white Republican state representative, Rick Miller, abruptly dropped his re-election bid after telling the Houston Chronicle that his primary challengers were motivated to run against him because of race, accusing one of determining “that my district might need an Asian to win.”
“The future of America looks like this district,” Bush said. “This is a district where a conservatism that empowers all Americans is something that’s worth fighting for.”