By\u00a0Patrick Svitek\r\nLand Commissioner George P. Bush\u00a0is sending strong signals that he\u2019s preparing to launch a primary challenge against\u00a0Attorney General Ken Paxton, hoping it can center on Paxton\u2019s legal troubles and how he has run his office.\r\nBut can Bush keep former President Donald Trump out of it \u2014 both figuratively and literally?\r\nIt is one of the most glaring questions as the foundation is laid for what could be Texas\u2019 marquee statewide primary next year. Both men have been Trump supporters, but Bush has a unique history with the former president as the most prominent member of the Bush political dynasty to embrace Trump. And in recent months, Paxton has grown only more overt in his affiliation with the former president, making him an inevitable topic in Paxton\u2019s reelection bid.\r\nBush has insisted there is \u201cno separation\u201d between him and Paxton when it comes to supporting Trump. But even some of Bush\u2019s supporters concede that, fair or not, Bush would have to contend with running with a last name that still evokes strong emotions among Trump backers.\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s very unfortunate to him because George P. Bush is his own man,\u201d said Eric Mahroum, Trump\u2019s deputy state director during the 2016 campaign in Texas \u2014 and an early supporter of Bush challenging Paxton. \u201cI try to educate the base \u2026 that no, he was so supportive and helped us. He was willing to do whatever to get us across the finish line in 2016.\u201d\r\nMahroum said his respect for Bush \u201cjust went to another level\u201d when he came out in support of Trump in the summer of 2016 and urged Texas Republicans to unify behind the nominee. Mahroum suggested it took Paxton longer to "come out vocally" for Trump back then.\r\nPaxton\u2019s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this story. But it has not entirely ignored Bush, dinging him last month as a \u201cpotential opponent more interested with the narrative being set by the liberal media than on the real and important issues facing Texas families and small businesses.\u201d\r\nThat came after Bush said he is \u201cseriously considering\u201d challenging Paxton, saying that \u201cthe top law enforcement official in Texas needs to be above reproach.\u201d Paxton has been indicted on state securities fraud charges for most of the time since he took office in 2015, and more recently, he\u00a0reportedly\u00a0came under FBI investigation over allegations from former top deputies that he abused his office to help a wealthy donor. Paxton has denied wrongdoing in both cases.\r\nBush has invited supporters to a "campaign kick-off rally" on June 2 in Austin. An invitation obtained by The Texas Tribune does not specify the office that Bush is running for but bills him as the "next generation of conservative leadership."\r\nBush and Paxton were both beneficiaries of Trump endorsements when they ran for reelection in 2018, and Bush promoted Trump\u2019s endorsement heavily as he fended off three primary challengers. Bush also had the support of Trump\u2019s son, Donald Trump Jr., who was set to headline a fundraiser for Bush\u2019s reelection campaign but\u00a0called it off\u00a0amid persistent criticism of the Trump presidency from Bush\u2019s dad, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.\r\nA Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on whether the former president would take sides in a Bush-Paxton primary. Donald Trump Jr. is personally close with Paxton, though he currently has no plans to get involved in a potential primary battle, according to a source familiar with his thinking.\r\nIt remains to be seen how much support Paxton would have even from fellow top Texas Republicans in a competitive primary. He caused a stir earlier this month after\u00a0The New York Times published a story\u00a0in which he said he did not think\u00a0Gov. Greg Abbott\u00a0supported him for reelection, so he did not support him. Paxton quickly said he\u00a0did indeed back Abbott\u00a0for another term, but the damage was done.\r\n\u201cUnlike Ken, I actually support Gov. Abbott and I think that he has done a heck of a lot more for the state of Texas than Ken ever will,\u201d Bush said in a radio interview Wednesday.\r\nOn Thursday,\u00a0U.S. Sen. John Cornyn\u00a0declined to give Paxton a vote of confidence for reelection. Asked if he supported Abbott for another term, as well as other statewide officials up for reelection next year, including Paxton, Cornyn told reporters: \u201cMy personal relationship with Gov. Abbott is such that I will support his reelection. Beyond that, I\u2019m really not interested in getting involved in primaries.\u201d\r\nPaxton could at least count on the support of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which he previously chaired. RAGA spokesman Johnny Koremenos noted in a statement for this story that the group \u201chas a long history of supporting incumbent Republican AGs.\u201d Last year, RAGA stood by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill as he faced three intraparty challengers amid a groping scandal that caused him to lose his law license. Hill was ultimately defeated in a state GOP convention.\r\nThe Bush \u2018that got it right\u2019\r\nBush was a supporter of \u2014 and surrogate for \u2014 his dad when Jeb Bush famously clashed with Trump in the 2016 primary. The two traded bitter attacks, and Trump did not spare other members of the Bush family, blaming George W. Bush for 9\/11 and the lead-up to the Iraq War.\r\nLike his dad, Bush did not endorse Trump once he became the presumptive GOP nominee in May 2016, and he declined to attend the Republican National Convention that summer. He\u00a0said in an Associated Press interview at the time\u00a0that Trump \u201chas the ability to win us over if he clarifies many of his remarks and he demonstrates that he has humility and that he doesn\u2019t besmirch peoples\u2019 character as the motivating factor for why he\u2019s running for office.\u201d\r\nBut as the chairman of the Texas GOP\u2019s 2016 Victory effort \u2014 responsible for ensuring Republicans won up and down the ballot that November \u2014 Bush had a choice to make. So during a meeting with state Republican activists in early August, shortly after the convention, Bush threw his support behind Trump, acknowledging it was a \u201cbitter pill to swallow\u201d for \u201cTeam Bush\u201d but urging Texas Republicans to unify to defeat Hillary Clinton.\r\n\u201cI didn\u2019t create controversy,\u201d George P. Bush said in a post-election TV interview. \u201cMy family understands my position.\u201d\r\nIn the ensuing months, his family members continued to draw attention for their resistance to Trump. The two former presidents in the family \u2014 the late George H.W. Bush, who was Bush\u2019s grandfather, and George W. Bush, who is Bush\u2019s uncle \u2014 notably declined to endorse Trump in 2016. But the land commissioner did not look back and emerged as a reliable booster of Trump in office.\r\nAfter Trump endorsed Bush for reelection in 2018, helping him win a four-way primary with 58% of the vote, the former president continued to revel in Bush\u2019s unique status in his family. During an August 2019 visit to Texas, Trump brought Bush onstage and said he was the \u201conly Bush that likes me\u201d and the one \u201cthat got it right.\u201d\r\n\u201cI like him,\u201d Trump said. \u201cHe\u2019s going far. He\u2019s going places.\u201d\r\nIn June 2020, when word got out that George W. Bush did not plan to support Trump for a second term \u2014 and that Jeb Bush was unsure of how he would vote \u2014 George P. Bush made sure to separate himself.\r\n\u201cI endorsed President Trump in the 2016 election cycle and plan to do so again in 2020,\u201d George P. Bush said in a statement.\r\nNotably, Bush stayed out of the fray after Trump lost reelection and spent weeks falsely claiming the election was stolen \u2014 claims that\u00a0coincided with Paxton\u2019s lawsuit in December challenging Trump\u2019s defeat in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Once Joe Biden was sworn in, though, Bush swiftly issued a statement congratulating him and vowing to be part of the \u201cloyal opposition.\u201d\r\nMost recently, Bush aligned himself with the Trump-fueled\u00a0effort to remove U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming\u00a0from House GOP leadership. Cheney voted to impeach Trump earlier this year and has continued to speak out about her belief that the GOP needs to move on from the former president.\r\nSpeaking on the radio minutes after news of Cheney\u2019s ouster broke, Bush called it a \u201cgood thing.\u201d\r\n\u201cInstead of training fire on the president, she really should\u2019ve been training fire on Biden and that agenda, and \u2026 I think that that\u2019s what you want out of your leadership,\u201d Bush said, \u201cand unfortunately \u2026 she didn\u2019t rise to the challenge.\u201d\r\nCheney is the daughter of Dick Cheney, who served as vice president when George W. Bush was president.\r\nBush\u2019s allies say he may never be able to fully distance himself from the anti-Trump brand that his family cultivated. But they express confidence that voters will see he has navigated the past several years as his own man.\r\n\u201cOh, there\u2019s always gonna be that, but \u2026 my respect for George P. is because of George P.,\u201d said Adrienne Pe\u00f1a-Garza, the chairwoman of the Hidalgo County GOP, who is personally supportive of Bush running against Paxton. \u201cNo disrespect to his family \u2014 I really appreciate how he as a young man has built his own career. He\u2019s a man of service to the community, and I think people will see that and believe that. So I don\u2019t believe he\u2019ll have a hard time at all [navigating the Trump dynamic].\u201d\r\nPaxton and Trump\r\nLike Bush, Paxton did not immediately embrace Trump after backing someone else in the 2016 primary \u2014 Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in this case. Paxton attended the 2016 national convention, though, and\u00a0declared his support for Trump there, saying he planned to \u201csupport him, vote for him, tell everybody to vote for him.\u201d\r\nAfter Trump got into the White House, Paxton emerged as one of the most pro-Trump attorneys general in the county, most notably leading the lawsuit to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act.\r\nPaxton hugged Trump even closer in his final weeks in office, though. He spearheaded a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in four battleground states, which the U.S. Supreme Court eventually declined to hear. He spoke at the pro-Trump rally that preceded the deadly U.S. Capitol riot in January. And in late February, he hit the golf course with Trump at the former president\u2019s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.\r\nThere was even speculation that Paxton could be included in Trump\u2019s final raft of pardons before he left office.\r\nPaxton\u2019s legal woes are undoubtedly fueling the movement to take him out in the primary. Another early backer of Bush\u2019s likely challenge to Paxton \u2014 Manny Ramirez, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers\u2019 Association \u2014 said Paxton has been a \u201cgood partner to law enforcement\u201d but that the attorney general \u201cneeds to be unquestionably qualified and able to do the job without distractions.\u201d\r\nAs for voters concerned with how supportive Bush and Paxton have been of Trump, Ramirez said, \u201cit\u2019s just picking between Option 1A and Option 1B.\u201d\r\nThis story originally published by the Texas Tribune.