GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) — The nephew of former President George W. Bush says he believes Republicans still smarting over the re-election of President Barack Obama don't need a new message, but a new messenger.
George Prescott Bush is the latest member of his family to enter politics. The 36-year-old has started raising money and crisscrossing the state with the intention of running in a statewide election next year, likely for Texas land commissioner.
He spoke Saturday at an evening fundraiser for the Republican Party in Denton County, an area north of Dallas that's key for GOP candidates.
Bush is a lawyer, a Naval Reserves officer who has served in Afghanistan and a Latino in a state with a rapidly growing Latino population. He also said he's part of a "9/11 generation" of people who came of age around the time of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Republicans courting younger and Latino voters shouldn't "sell out" their principles or make wholesale changes to their positions, Bush said.
"These groups are looking for a different messenger, and that's one of the reasons why I've pursued public office here in Texas, and why I join a new generation of Republicans," Bush said.
Bush's mother, Columba, was born in Mexico, and he speaks Spanish. That could make him a key figure for Republicans in Texas and nationwide hoping to build support among Latinos, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic. While no Democrat has won statewide in Texas in two decades, national Democrats see Latino population growth as a way to break that streak in future years.
Bush has declined to say what office he'll seek, and he stuck to that Saturday night, saying he "unfortunately" couldn't talk about his future plans.
He stayed away in a 20-minute speech from talking about hot-button issues like immigration — which has divided Republicans, including his father, who recently said he opposed a so-called "pathway to citizenship" for illegal immigrants in any potential overhaul. A spokesman for George P. Bush declined to say what his position was, and Bush did not take questions after his speech.
Instead, he rattled off statistics about tax subsidies inequitably going to alternative energy and attacked Obama's refusal to approve the entire Keystone XL pipeline last year. But he also said Republicans needed to avoid "crony capitalism" at the expense of small business owners.
"We need to get out of the business of crony capitalism, because it's small business owners like you and me that finance the large bailout programs, the stimulus programs that are available to large businesses and large corporations under the mantra of the 'too big to fail' mantra," Bush said.
He also called on state lawmakers to make changes to education, including performance pay for teachers.
"By all indicators, as a state and as a country, we're falling behind the rest of the developing world," he said.
While Bush has pushed off a final decision until May, he has said he's leaning toward running for Texas land commissioner, whose office manages state assets, investments and mineral rights. Jerry Patterson, the current land commissioner, has already announced he plans to run for lieutenant governor.
But Bush could also be a candidate for higher office, including attorney general, which could be an open race if current Attorney General Greg Abbott runs for governor.
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, the Tyler Republican and tea party firebrand, was master of ceremonies Saturday night. He took the stage following Bush and exclaimed, "Great days ahead!"