PHARR — Donovan De La Garza, 13, was all smiles in front of a hand-painted welcome sign at the Pharr Boys & Girls Club as he declared it “a great honor” to greet guest George P. Bush before his peers.
Bush — the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, grandson of former President George H.W. Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush — toured classrooms and recreation areas at the club Monday, getting information on its programs and challenges.
“Keep up the good work and try to stay out of trouble,” he told a crowd of youngsters.
The 36-year-old attorney and real estate developer — widely considered a top up-and-comer in the Republican Party — stopped in the Rio Grande Valley on Monday as part of a national effort to woo Hispanic voters into going red.
Son to a Mexican-born mother, George P. Bush co-founded the Hispanic Republicans of Texas.
What’s his message here?
“More than anything, that there is a Republican Party and we’re here asking for votes,” he said.
Pharr City Commissioner Jimmy Garza, his wife Adrienne Peña-Garza and her father, state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, invited George P. Bush to the Valley to learn more about the region, and Pharr in particular.
He made stops in Harlingen and McAllen before heading to Pharr, where he heard about operations at the Boys & Girls Club at 413 E. Clark St. and scoped out the new Boys & Girls Club facility under construction near Liberty Middle School.
At the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, Customs and Border Protection agents advised George P. Bush about the port’s produce imports and new inspection facilities.
The day ended with a fundraising dinner at the Garzas’ home for the Hispanic Republicans of Texas.
“As you can see, there are conservatives down here,” said Kara Sands, who helped organize the event for the group. “There’s such a perception that Republicans are mean and hate people, and that’s not it at all. It’s time to turn Hidalgo County red.”
After his various stops in the area, George P. Bush called himself most struck by the interdependence among the communities and regional approach to infrastructure and projects. He emphasized the Valley’s trade importance to the Texas economy.
“This is where the rubber meets the road as far as commerce,” he said.
Regarding speculation about him running for office, George P. Bush said he had made no final decisions yet.
“After Election Day we’ll see where it leads — I’ve been encouraged to run for office in 2014,” he said. “I’m more drawn to state government, issues with education.”
Elizabeth Findell covers Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at email@example.com and (956) 683-4428.
Follow Elizabeth Findell on Twitter: @efindell