Pierce Bush, a grandson of former President George H. W. Bush, had his bid for the Republican nomination in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District fall short on Tuesday night, ending his run for the House of Representatives.
The loss makes 34-year-old Pierce the first member of the Bush family in more than 40 years to lose an election in Texas, when President George W. Bush lost his congressional race in the state’s 19th District.
Pierce came in third place in Tuesday’s primary among 15 other Republicans running for their party’s nomination for the suburban Houston congressional seat.
President Donald Trump-aligned candidates Troy Nehls and Kathaleen Wall beat out the Bush grandson in the race and will move to a run-off election in May.
Pierce, who raised more money than any other candidate running for the nomination according to The New York Post, had also earned the endorsement of the outgoing Republican congressman, Rep. Pete Olson.
Olson announced he would retire last July and Democrats soon targeted the race to replace him as an election where the party could potentially gain a seat in the House of Representatives.
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Although Pierce had name recognition, funding and key political endorsements, he faced scrutiny throughout the campaign for not being as loyal to Trump as Nehls and Wall.
That divide reflects broader tensions between Trump, as the Republican leader, and the Bushes, who were the party’s pre-eminent clan for decades.
“It’s an honorable family, this and that,” Nehls told supporters at a campaign fundraiser in February, according to Politico. “But again to try to come into a district that you haven’t lived and to try and convince people that you’re the one that’s going to go up and help Donald Trump accomplish his goals and objectives — I don’t think the people are buying it.”
According to Politico, Wall is a “Republican megadonor” who spent millions of her own money on ads that directly align her with Trump, while Nehls is a sheriff in the largest county in the district and made headlines for threatening disorderly conduct charges against a person with a profane anti-Trump sticker.
Pierce, on the other hand, has reportedly struggled to convince Republican voters in the area that he fully supports Trump — especially in the wake of former the elder President Bush previously saying he voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.
Political scientists told the Texas Tribune that Pierce’s struggle in the election signals a waning support for the Bush family’s “compassionate conservatism” in the era of Trumpism that rose to public life on the heels of the president’s 2016 election, which was partly catapulted by bashing Jeb Bush in early goings of that Republican race.
“The last thing our country needs is another BUSH! Dumb as a rock!” Trump tweeted during the 2016 election, echoing his criticism against Jeb and Bush-aligned Republicans.
Another factor in Pierce’s loss Tuesday was his late entrance into the 22nd District’s race in December after long considering running for the congressional seat in the state’s 7th District, where his grandfather held office from 1967 to71.
“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 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.”
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