Pierce Bush, the grandson of the late former President George H.W. Bush, failed to advance in his bid for a Houston congressional seat on Tuesday, marking the first time that a member of the Bush family has lost a race in Texas in over 40 years.
The last time that happened was in 1978, when George W. Bush ran a failed bid for Congress, CBS News reported. Since then, Bushes have won races in the Lone Star State for president, governor, and even state land commissioner — one of Jeb Bush's sons, George P. Bush, won those races in 2014 and 2018.
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Pierce Bush, a 34-year-old nonprofit executive, finished third in the primary race that featured 15 Republican candidates. The top two finishers, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls and technology consultant Kathaleen Wall, are set to compete in a runoff election in May.
Political scientists say that while the waning influence of the Bush family name could have contributed to Bush's loss, other factors were also at play. Bush jumped into the race for the 22nd Congressional District late, and chose not to run for the 7th Congressional District, where his grandfather represented from 1967 to 1971.
"Pierce Bush's failure to reach the runoff suggests that the market for the Bush family brand of compassionate conservatism is nowhere near as strong as it was 20 to 30 years ago when his grandfather and uncle enjoyed widespread support within the Texas GOP," Rice University political scientist Mark Jones told the Texas Tribune.
"At the same time, it is important not to read too much into this race, since Pierce Bush's candidacy was undercut from the outset by the launch of his campaign less than three months prior to election day as well as the legitimate critiques against him of being a carpetbagger who only moved into the district after launching his candidacy," Jones said.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political scientist added that Bush's conservative credentials were not considered as strong as some of the other candidates in "a primary field that was moving significantly far to the right ideologically."
Despite reportedly raising more money than any of the other 14 candidates and securing the endorsement of the outgoing GOP incumbent Rep. Pete Olson, Bush's efforts were not enough.
Texas' 22nd Congressional District is one of seven seats that Democrats have prioritized flipping in 2020. Whoever wins the GOP primary will face Democrat and former foreign service officer Sri Preston Kulkarni in the general election.