PHARR — Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush was greeted by the blare of mariachi music at T. Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School on Friday morning before taking the stage for one of his first public addresses since announcing his candidacy for Texas Attorney General this week.
Bush was in town to discuss public education with district leadership, specifically pertaining to his involvement in public education funding as land commissioner and the role educators played during the pandemic, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District Board Member Jesus “Jesse” Zambrano said.
Zambrano, a law school classmate of Bush’s, said the visit was symbolically important for the district’s students and staff.
“I don’t think it’s the first time he’s been here before,” he said. “He’s a good friend of PSJA and I think it’s important that our staff and our teachers see his involvement and how his office works with public education. And it’s just amazing for the students that were here, for the staff that were here, to be recognized and for them to feel valued by somebody like Commissioner Bush.”
Speaking to students and staff, Bush certainly put an emphasis on making his audience feel valued.
He said the resilience of teachers and administrators helped the state’s school systems turn the corner on overcoming the pandemic and called education funding a priority for the state and the Land Office. He told students the visit was a privilege.
“We’re going to be armed with an opportunity to take on great challenges for the world. I dare you to dream big, to take on a lot of risk and to go out and be servant-leaders, just as many who have come before you today,” he said.
Bush — the son of a former governor, nephew of a former president and grandson of another former president — connected to the audience more through his mother’s Mexican heritage than the heritage of his famous family.
He thanked the district’s mariachis. They reminded him of his mother’s home, he said. He called Board President Jorge Zambrano his “tocayo.”
The Spanish quips landed well and elicited peals of laughter from the crowd. Bush got cheers when he was given baseball hats from the district and tried one on — a good sign for a man on the hunt for friendly voters.
On Wednesday, Bush launched a bid for the attorney general’s office against fellow Republican Ken Paxton, who is under indictment and facing claims of abusing his office. Paxton has denied wrongdoing in those instances.
That checkered past has impacted the efficacy of the attorney general’s office in the Rio Grande Valley, Bush said while talking to reporters after the event.
“In the Valley, border protection is [the] number one issue. Backing the thin blue line, law enforcement — human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the state of Texas. The office has concurrent jurisdiction with the local DAs; there have been zero human trafficking cases passed through the Texas AG’s office. That’s unacceptable,” he said. “Because of the crisis in leadership, none of those cases have been referred to the AG.”
Paxton’s office released a statement Wednesday in response to Bush’s election bid.
“Texans know Attorney General Paxton’s rock-solid conservative record,” the statement read. “From defeating Joe Biden’s dangerous executive order halting deportations of illegal aliens, to his willingness to stand up for secure elections, Ken Paxton has been and will continue to be the tip of the spear in protecting President Trump’s America First principles.”
Despite that “rock-solid conservative record,” Bush said Friday that the attorney general’s office needs a new voice and more accountability. He said if elected he’d bring in younger attorneys to the office – maybe even PSJA grads, he said, referring to the students in the room.
“Actually one wants to go to law school at UT,” Bush said. “Maybe I’ll recruit him in three years and bring him to the office.”