George P. Bush — son of Jeb Bush, nephew of George W. Bush and grandson of George H.W. Bush — is running for attorney general in Texas, and away from the legacy of antipathy to former President Donald J. Trump embodied by his own last name.
The new campaign beer cozies handed out to supporters this week featured the Lone Star flag on the front, and, on the flip side, a quote from Mr. Trump — who relentlessly mocked Mr. Bush’s father in 2016 — that read:
“This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him.”
The younger Mr. Bush, who currently serves as commissioner of the Texas land office, a statewide post with a wide range of development and education functions, is taking on Ken Paxton, the ferociously pro-Trump incumbent who filed an unsuccessful lawsuit contesting election results in four states that the former president lost last November.
The Bush swag tells the story of a Republican primary challenger treading a narrow and perhaps unforgiving path between Mr. Trump and a center-right family philosophy now far out of step with the party’s base.
The primary takes place in March, followed by the general election in November. Two Democrats — Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney from Dallas, and Joe Jaworski, the former mayor of Galveston — have said they will run. In 2018, Mr. Paxton defeated the Democrat Justin Nelson by around three points.
At his Wednesday kickoff at a beer garden in Austin, Mr. Bush accused Mr. Paxton of corruption while emphasizing his own support for Mr. Trump. The attorney general was indicted on securities fraud charges five years ago; he has repeatedly denied the charges and claimed the case is politically motivated.
In a follow-up interview with Fox News on Thursday, Mr. Bush praised “the Trump days,” and criticized President Biden for reversing many of the previous administration’s policies at the border.
He went out of his way to describe the details of a chat he initiated with Mr. Trump, seeking his support.
“We had a great conversation a few days ago, he sent me his best — he had great words of encouragement,” Mr. Bush said of the man who delighted in taunting his father as “low energy.”
Mr. Trump, who commands the overwhelming support of Republicans in Texas but who won the state by only five points, has basked in the empowering glow of the candidates’ praise.
“I like them both very much,” he told CNN earlier this week. “I’ll be making my endorsement and recommendation to the great people of Texas in the not-so-distant future.”
The low-key Mr. Bush, a Florida native whose mother is Mexican-American, has also been adopting an increasingly confrontational posture with local Democrats.
Last week, Mr. Bush’s land office — which has broad discretion in doling out federal aid to localities — denied disaster mitigation aid to several cities with large minority populations, including Houston.
He reversed course a few days later under pressure from the state’s congressional delegation, announcing he would release about $750 million in funds allocated in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.