On the last day to file for the 2020 elections, an already crowded race for Texas’ 22nd Congressional District in Southeast Houston gained yet another candidate.
Earlier this week, Pierce Bush, grandson of former President George H. W. Bush, filed to run for the seat being vacated by Representative Pete Olson. Including Bush, there are now 5 Democrats and 16 Republicans vying for the seat, making it one of the most crowded congressional primaries in the nation.
The latest entry to the congested CD-22 Republican primary may have instant name recognition, but the Bush name also comes with associations that may not necessarily be advantageous.
As a member of one of the best-known political families in America, Pierce will need to overcome the distrust some Republicans have for the Bush family after a very public conflict with President Trump and allegations that his grandfather George H. W. Bush voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
In an AP interview, Pierce Bush dismissed concerns over his loyalty to the president with language supportive of policy, but without actually naming the president.
“When you look at the alternative first of all, how can you be anything but a supporter of the president’s policies?” Bush added, “I look forward to being a partner in Washington, and speaking of course with my own voice, but supporting the president’s agenda.”
Pierce Bush’s past political actions will not be easy for Trump supporters to dismiss.
Records indicate he voted in the Democratic primary in 2008, but has voted in Republican primaries since then. In 2017, Bush participated in a New York City march protesting the new president’s proposed immigration policy, posting photos of himself and his sister along with commentary saying, “No ban. No fear. Refugees are welcome here.”
A long-time resident of Houston who has served as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star since 2015, Bush does not yet reside in the 22nd Congressional District. He currently lives in the 2nd Congressional District now represented by Rep. Dan Crenshaw.
Bush was rumored to have been considering a run for the 7th Congressional District once held by his grandfather, but after Representative Pete Olson announced his retirement last summer, Bush shifted his interest to the CD-22 seat.
Bush’s last-minute entry drew skepticism from other district candidates and party activists.
Former Pearland City Councilmember Greg Hill released a statement saying that while he had great respect for the Bush family, he had “strong doubts about any candidate who would try to parachute into our district and buy this seat.”
Hill’s statement applies also to Kathaleen Wall who recently bought a home in CD-22 and who has already contributed $600,000 of her own funds to her campaign.
Wall, a well-known conservative activist in the Houston-area and State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) member, spent $6.2 million running for Texas’ 2nd Congressional District in 2018 but took third place in the primary that year.
Hill, who won his race for Brazoria County Court at Law Judge just last year but resigned 8 months into his term to run for Congress, enjoys strong support from his portion of the district, and last week he was endorsed by former candidate Keli Chevalier when she dropped out of the race.
But the lion’s share of the district lies in Fort Bend County where Troy Nehls has handily won two terms as County Sheriff and appears to be a favorite among some locals.
One Fort Bend County Republican precinct chair, who preferred not to be named, told The Texan that he would be enthusiastically supporting Nehls.
“Sheriff Troy Nehls is the most conservative candidate, he is from within the district, and he can win in the general election.”
Nehls is well known for his commitment to the community and efforts during and after Hurricane Harvey. He has been vocally supportive of President Trump and policies to secure the border. Nehls is working with consulting firm Axiom Strategies, who also managed presidential campaigns for former Governor Rick Perry and Senator Ted Cruz.
Support for President Trump will undoubtedly factor into this primary.
Wall, who is working with Trump-affiliated strategists, has been running local radio spots pledging to be an ally to the president.
The Pierce Bush campaign has not yet responded to questions regarding his participation in the 2017 immigration rally, nor has he articulated his stance on immigration policy.
His campaign website does not yet include any information about his political viewpoints. Bush is reportedly working with campaign consultant Chris Homan at Marathon Strategies, who also managed former State Representative Kevin Roberts’ (R-Houston) campaign for congress in 2018.
The winner of the Republican primary will face one of five Democrats who have filed. Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni, a former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, came close to defeating Rep. Pete Olson in 2018, and has raised more than $700,000 for his campaign.
Other Democrats include Nyanza Moore and Pearland City Councilman Derrick Reed.
The district is one of six GOP-held seats in Texas being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Additional reporting on this district and race can be found below:
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Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.