AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his rising-political-star son, George P. Bush, spoke together Tuesday in Texas on education issues, and both men resisted efforts to get them to talk in detail about future political plans.
The elder Bush, who is often mentioned as a possible contender for president in 2016, told an education forum organized by the Texas Business Leadership Council, “I urge you to be big and bold, and if people get offended, so what?”
“Politics can’t always be like mamby-pamby land,” said Bush, who said America’s public schools have for too long been organized to best suit the “economic needs of adults” such as unionized teachers and school administrators, rather than students.
Bush was governor from 1999 until 2007 and trumpeted the overhaul of Florida public schools implemented under his watch.
He said public schools here and elsewhere have become “a public, unionized monopoly” and that the only way to weaken it is to expanded school choice while tightening teacher evaluation standards and limiting tenure.
George P. Bush, meanwhile, originally had been scheduled to introduce his father Tuesday, but said that doing so was “very emotional” and instead delivered a short warm-up speech.
He has announced plans to seek statewide office in Texas next year. He hasn’t said which one but said he’s leaning toward land commissioner – though he’s been mentioned as a possible contender for attorney general or even governor.
His mother, Jeb Bush’s wife, is from Mexico and both men speak Spanish. But the younger Bush has been especially celebrated by Texas Hispanics who hope he can help the party connect with the state’s Hispanic voters. Hispanics are Texas’ fastest growing demographic but also overwhelmingly support Democrats.
Jeb Bush refused to comment on his son’s future except to say he was proud of him.
“Now I know what my Dad feels like,” Bush, whose father is former President George H.W. Bush, said after the event.
“It’s incredibly emotional. It’s pride and no trepidation because he’s been involved a lot,” Bush said of his son. “He’s been engaged in helping others, so he knows the ropes, he knows what it’s like, he knows what he’s getting into.”
The elder Bush has been seen by many nationally as a more moderate GOP voice. “The last two or three election cycles, we’ve been against things rather than for things,” Bush said following his speech.
But pressed on whether he should run for president to make sure those ideas are heard, he replied: “I have no idea what I’ll be doing four years from now. It’s way too early to speculate.”