Race to Raise: Suazo vs. Bush
“Remember the Alamo!” may be taking on new meaning for Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, as he has had to fend off attacks in his primary campaign and now again in the general election over his leadership of a project to renovate and “reimagine” the monument to the historic battle for Texas’ independence. The Texas General Land Office (GLO) — the oldest state agency in Texas – manages state-owned land and mineral rights, and since 2011, has managed the state’s most famous monument, The Alamo.
Commonly called “George P.” to distinguish him from his uncle, former Texas Governor and U.S. President George W. Bush, and his grandfather and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, this younger Bush was first elected to lead the GLO in 2014. His tenure in the office was relatively uneventful until controversy arose over his office’s handling of the “Reimagine the Alamo” initiative.
Critics charged that the efforts went beyond needed renovations to include diminishing the battle itself and making the monument more politically correct. As a result, three men jumped on the bandwagon to unseat Bush in the Republican primary: former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, land surveyor Davey Edwards, and Alamo historian and founder of the Save the Alamo Committee Rick Range. At a joint rally of the challengers, Jerry Patterson remarked, “Rick, Davey, we’re all on the same page… What I want you to do is pick one of us, but…sure as hell don’t pick George P.”
Ultimately, the message around the Alamo either did not reach enough voters, or voters simply did not care. Bush won re-election without even being forced into a runoff, netting 58.22% of the overall vote.
In the Democrat primary, Miguel Suazo, an energy and natural resources attorney, racked up 70.15% of the vote to handily defeat Tex Morgan, a computer engineer and CEO of an information technology company.
Here’s a quick look at the numbers:
|Texas Land Commissioner – By The Numbers|
|George P. Bush (I)||Miguel Suazo|
|Total Money Raised||$1,717,726.15||$68,226.24|
|Total Number of Donations||963||339|
|Average Donation Amount||$1,783.72||$201.26|
|Total Expenditures in General Election||$616,141.63||$9,464.80|
|Total Expenditures in Primary Election||$3,448,802.72||$16,948.98|
|Total Votes (in Primary)||862,512||665,344|
|Cost Per Vote||$4.00||$0.03|
The Alamo controversy continues to haunt Bush as he heads into the general election in November. Suazo has made it his number one campaign issue, including an ad on his Facebook page claiming that he wants to remember, not reimagine, the Alamo. It remains to be seen whether Suazo can have any more luck with this issue than Bush’s primary challengers.
Key Takeaways From the race for Texas Land Commissioner:
- Friends of the family.
Bush’s top donor, Hushang Ansary, is the former Iranian ambassador to the United States and former chairman of the National Iranian Oil Company. Ansary, who now resides in Houston’s River Oaks, contributed $175,000 to Bush’s 2018 re-election efforts. The Ansary family and Bush family ties run deep: Ansary is a trustee of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, and Ansary and his wife donated $2 million to Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s (George P’s dad’s) failed bid for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.
- Suazo’s Campaign Manager provides strong financial support.
Suazo’s top donor is his campaign manager Edward Espinoza, also the Executive Director of Progress Texas, a non-profit media organization dedicated to promoting Democrat and progressive ideals by spurring liberal Texans to vote. Mr. Espinoza is a weekly commentator on the local Fox channel in Austin and an occasional commentator on CNN. He has contributed over $48,000 to Suazo, mostly in the form of monthly contributions of $8,000 each. His support for Suazo far exceeds his support for any other Texas candidates.
- Controversial contributions.
Bush has been criticized heavily for accepting campaign contributions from entities who were awarded contracts with the GLO. For example, James Turner donated $5,000 to Bush a month before Turner’s construction company was the recipient of a $20 million dollar GLO contract. Similarly, executives and employees of Horne LLP, an accounting firm, donated $27,500 to Bush just after the GLO awarded their company a $13.5 million dollar contract to help with Hurricane Harvey recovery. Ash Wright, Bush’s political director, called any suggestion that the donations and contracts were related “fake news.” Ultimately, the controversial contributions did not translate into voter outrage at the ballot box.
Before you go…
Bush has received more than 900 individual contributions, an astounding number for a relatively obscure election. Interestingly, that number includes sizable contributions from Democrats as well as Republicans. For example, brother and sister Reagan and Ryann Reaud, known Democrat donors, each lavished Bush with $12,500. Apparently, it still pays to be a Bush.
Our Race to Raise series takes a deeper look at the most high-profile races of the election cycle, focusing specifically on money raised by those seeking to serve in public office. Stay tuned for the next installment.