Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson says he wants his old job back.
Patterson, who served three terms as land commissioner before running fourth in a four-way Republican primary contest for lieutenant governor in 2014, said Friday he will challenge one-term Land Commissioner George P. Bush in the March GOP primary.
Over the past several months, Patterson has criticized Bush over his oversight of a $450 million project to renovate the area surrounding the Alamo, as well as his handling of Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
“I don’t need a job, and I would frankly prefer to be praising George P. Bush at this point in time,” Patterson told the American-Statesman. “However, for the last four months I’ve been looking for an opponent (for Bush) and I haven’t had any success.
“Over the last three years, I’ve watched the (General Land Office) be rebooted, and it’s actually essentially cratered,” he said, referring to the layoffs of more than 100 employees — about 17 percent of the agency’s workforce — during Bush’s first year. Bush said at the time the job cuts were part of an effort to make the agency more efficient.
“It was the best agency in Texas government. And I’ve watched the land office mismanage the rollout of the restoration of the Alamo. I’ve watched them hide the ball by refusing to answer open records requests,” Patterson said.
This week, state lawmakers grilled Bush over what they said was a lack of transparency in the Alamo work.
Bush campaign manager Ash Wright said in a text message that Bush is “arguably the most conservative land commissioner in Texas history.”
“Commissioner Bush has reduced the size of the GLO, implemented zero-based budgeting, improved services and increased benefits for veterans, used his platform to champion school choice and the sanctity of life, and worked to save the Alamo,” Wright said. “And he defied and defeated Barack Obama when he tried to take over Texas land. He is proud of his conservative record. And he is working hard to produce even more conservative victories at the GLO.”
Patterson was author of the state’s concealed handgun law in 1995 as a state senator and is perhaps best known for his defense of gun rights. During a career in public service, he also was an outspoken advocate for veterans and successfully took on environmentalists and the federal government over endangered sea turtles and lizards to fight federal efforts to limit oil and gas exploration.
More recently, Patterson has been the champion of a cadre of descendants of Alamo figures who are suspicious of Bush’s plans for the Alamo, believing he might diminish the 1836 battle in a retelling of the history of the Spanish mission. Bush has denied that.
Two Republicans have already filed to challenge Bush in the Republican primary: Rick Range of Sherman, a firefighter and well-known figure among Alamo buffs in Texas, and Davey Edwards, a land surveyor from Decatur. One Democrat has filed: Miguel Suazo, an Austin-based oil and gas lawyer.