News & Politics

Lt. Gov. Attacks George P. Bush Over Alamo Project After Rumors Surface That Bush Plans to Challenge Patrick

Photo credit: Texas General Land Office, and the Alamo.

“Remember the Alamo!” might become a divisive political slogan as Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has accused his fellow Republican, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, of leading the Alamo restoration project “badly off track.” His remarks came one day before the 184th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo, a military defeat that energized the Texas revolution against Mexico and helped America’s second-most populous state enter the Union.

“Nothing defines the independent and the courageous spirit of Texas more than our iconic Alamo and, like most Texans, I treasure it. The history of the Alamo is a personal passion of mine. I do not intend to sit quietly and see this project fail,” Patrick said in a statement slamming Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and grandson of President George H. W. Bush. “The job of oversight for this project is the responsibility of the General Land Office headed by Commissioner George P. Bush. It is evident to me that both the design, planning, and execution of the project is badly off track.”

Bush has long received criticism over the General Land Office and the City of San Antonio’s plan to “reimagine” the site of the Alamo. Texans are incensed over the plan to relocate the Alamo Cenotaph, a monument commissioned on the centennial anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo that serves as a tombstone for the men who gave their lives in the fight for Texas independence in the historic siege (February 23-March 6, 1836).

On Tuesday, Republican voters overwhelmingly approved a proposition on the GOP primary ballot stating, “Texans should protect and preserve all historical monuments, artifacts, and buildings, such as the Alamo Cenotaph and our beloved Alamo, and should oppose any reimagining of the Alamo site.” Nearly 98 percent of Republican voters supported it.

Patrick slammed Bush over the Cenotaph relocation and the look and design of new buildings on the site.

“The latest [design] looks like a massive urban park with hundreds of trees—more like Central Park in New York City than Alamo Plaza,” the lieutenant governor said. “We have wasted significant public dollars on designs which most Texans would immediately reject.” He called on Bush to release all proposed architectural designs and threatened to move the project to another entity in the absence of significant change.

“If the General Land Office cannot handle this important job, and to date it does not appear it can, I will recommend we identify another entity to provide oversight,” Patrick warned.

Late Thursday, Bush spokeswoman Karina Erickson said the land commissioner welcomes Patrick’s suggestions, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“Lt. Governor Patrick brings up many great ideas — ideas that are already incorporated in the Alamo Plan, including the intent to restore the Alamo Church and Battleground to the 1836 time period,” Erickson said.

Patrick demanded that the restoration effort should include a “world-class visitor center” focused on the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, “not the 200-year history of early Spanish settlement in Texas,” which is covered by San Antonio’s Mission Trail. Erickson insisted that a focus on the battle will be the focal point of the restoration.

The Texas legislature approved funds for preserving the Alamo and rebuilding the plaza in 2015. Lawmakers intended for Texans and others to be able to “see the battlefield as it was” in 1836, Patrick insisted.

A recent records request exposed another controversy. Members of the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association condemned digging in a graveyard.

Yet the political battle may trace back to Bush’s decision to spread rumors that he may challenge Patrick in the 2022 lieutenant governor race. Lieutenant governor is the most powerful position in the Texas government when the legislature is in session because it controls the state Senate’s agenda. While the legislature is not scheduled to meet again until January 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) may call the legislature into a special session to deal with this issue, which would humiliate Bush.

In October, Bush’s senior advisor, J. R. Hernandez, insisted that the land commissioner remains focused on his job, attempting to dispel rumors of a planned run against Patrick. “Over the last few months, several activists and donors have asked Commissioner Bush to consider higher office in Texas,” Hernandez admitted. “At this time he is 100% focused on doing his job as land commissioner. While he wouldn’t challenge current Governor Abbott or Lieutenant Governor Patrick, if an opening presents itself he would absolutely consider serving Texans in a higher role. When that moment arises, he’s ready.”

Political fireworks may be coming to Texas, and “Remember the Alamo!” may be a political rallying cry against Bush.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.