USF students who were dining at the Argos Center this weekend got a real treat, and it wasn’t food. Gov. Jeb Bush’s son, George P. Bush, held a meet-and-greet session and also helped campaign for his dad in a room full of about 150 people Saturday afternoon.
The governor’s son traveled to various colleges around the state Friday and Saturday to speak to students for the first time during the gubernatorial campaign.
“I think it is very effective to speak with them in person and remind them to vote,” Bush said. “It is one thing to put up ads, signs that makes a difference in the poll people but coming out and showing, spending your Saturday talking with younger voters, I think that makes a difference.”
The event, which was sponsored by the Students for Jeb Coalition and USF for Tampa Bay Young Republicans, lasted for an hour and some students were disappointed that George’s brother, Jeb Jr., didn’t show.
“At the last minute Jeb Jr. couldn’t come,” said Alisa Lorello, vice president for USF for Tampa Bay Young Republicans. “I think he might have gone to some of the schools but couldn’t come to USF.”
Bush also said it is frustrating to encourage people to vote, and such was the case when he was working with his uncle in the 2000 election.
“Since this is not a presidential election it makes that much more difficult,” he said. “The effort is to remind people that there is an election, remind them about my father’s record of accomplishments in Tallahassee and hope that it makes a difference.”
As a third year law student at the University of Texas who is graduating in the spring, George said getting into politics is too early to call right now.
“For me, I live life day by day and I am focused on graduating law school and taking the bar, and one day I would like to have a family,” he said. “But right now politics is, I think, entirely too early to think about.”
Bush started his event at USF with a two-minute speech discussing the issues that his father has promised over his term and told the students that it is important to vote because it can make a difference.
“It is very encouraging and motivating to see that so many young Americans here today rolling up their sleeves and doing the dirty work and getting involved in politic,.” he said.
Bush also recapped his father’s motto after he was elected four years ago, “a promise made should be a promise kept.” Bush said his father made certain promises when he got elected, one being public school funding, and he is proud of his father’s accomplishment.
“Not only have we talked the talk with public school funding, but he has walked the walk in tune of bringing in over $3 billion for our public schools since 1998,” he said.
Bush added that he was a former high school teacher in the public school system and that funding is important.
Bush also touched upon his father’s accomplishments with crime and the environment, stating that crime has been at its lowest since 1972 and that his father holds the environment “near and dear to his heart.”
“He has brought together various special interests to pass new state and federal law to begin comprehensive restoration of the Everglades,” he said. “Over the next 10 years we will devote over $3 billion dollars to preserving lakes, rivers and creating new recreational opportunities not just for our generation but future generations.”
Bush said this year his father will run on his record of accomplished promises, despite the criticism that he has received with the Department of Families and Children and public schools.
“I encourage you to keep in mind the importance of voting,” he said. “This is a tight race.”
With the gubernatorial race so close between Jeb Bush and Democrat Bill McBride, Bush said in order to make sure the race runs smoothly and not embarrass the state again, the state needs to place full confidence in the county officials.
“We are concerned but we are just going to go out there and do our job. Our job is to turn out our base and reach out to the imminent voters,” he said. “We are going to let the chips fall where they may on Election Day and hopefully we won’t have to worry and the margin will be a little wider.”
Students gathered around Bush and asked to take pictures and sign their red “Vote for Jeb” posters, along with answering questions from them after his speech concluded.
Kari Bruursema, a graduate student who attended said she wanted to come to see if People magazine’s fourth-place most eligible bachelor (fit the place.)
“I just wanted to see if he was cute in person,” Bruursema said.
Bruursema said she is a registered independent and was expecting something a little more formal.
“If it was going to be an answer and question session I think I would have asked some questions, but it wasn’t,” she said.
The event also attracted students from the Democratic side. Graduate student Kim O’ Brian said she likes to hear both sides before voting.
“I like to be more informed,” O’ Brian said.