What It's Like to Share a Name With Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz

Jeb Bush
One thing seems inevitable: It's about to get a lot worse for these Jeb Bushes and Ted Cruzes. Jim Young/Reuters

Previously: What It's Like to Share a Name With Lord Voldemort

Jeb Bush isn't running for president. He's not even supporting the Republican Party. Jeb Bush is "a hard-core Democrat."

Not that Jeb Bush. This Jeb Bush is a 34-year-old special events director at a nonprofit organization in Savannah, Georgia. No relation. Please stop asking him if he's running for president.

As the 2016 presidential election shakily revs up, Bush is one of a handful of Americans who has the bizarre misfortune of sharing a name with a likely candidate. (That didn't happen so much with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.) For this feature, Newsweek also spoke with two men named Ted Cruz, just as the Texas senator officially announced his candidacy. One is a 42-year-old jazz musician and producer in New York City (who coincidentally grew up in, yes, Texas). The other is a 70-year-old teacher and educational trainer in Scottsdale, Arizona. All shared their stories in separate phone conversations.

Their experiences carrying around the Bush and Cruz names have been mixed, though one fact seems sadly inevitable: things are about to get a lot worse.

On first realizing they shared a name with a major politician:

Ted Cruz, Scottsdale: I guess ever since he became kind of popular as a Tea Partier I've known that he existed. In my humor I would introduce myself as Ted Cruz—The Original, 'cuz I'm 70 and this guy's not that old.

Jeb Bush, Savannah: I was in high school, so mid-'90s…. I was born in May of 1980, before even the elder Bush became vice president. My full name is actually Joseph Edward Bush. But I've always gone by Jeb.

Ted Cruz, New York City: I've always been aware of it since he became a senator. Just kind of heard about it and read his name somewhere and thought that was interesting that he has the same name. As he's ascended through the ranks, I see it more and more.

On the strangest experiences caused by being named Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush:

Jeb Bush, Savannah: I worked for the Girl Scouts here in Savannah at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, a historic house museum honoring the Girl Scouts founder. There was a tour guide in town that when asked by tourists if there was any way they could meet Paula Deen, he would respond by telling people, "No, but if you go to the Juliette Low Birthplace, you can meet Jeb Bush." He actually would tell tourists to go in and have the front desk call my office upstairs to come down so they could have their picture taken with me. I would guess there were about 10 different incidents when I was called down to meet people expecting to meet the former governor of Florida.

Ted Cruz, New York City: On the television or in print somewhere, I still do a little double-take. I don't think it's about me, but it's just weird to see your name so prominently somewhere. You just kind of look at it like, Wow! That's my name! Not used to seeing it a lot like that.

Ted Cruz, Scottsdale: I was at church on Sunday and the presiding pastor said, "Oh, by the way, I just read that Ted Cruz is running for president." And in the congregation that we're at, a lot of people know who I am so they all got a chuckle out of that. Afterwards they all wanted to shake my hand.

Jeb Bush, 34, is a nonprofit events director in Savannah. Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush, Savannah: When I was living in D.C. it was right after the 2000 election, and I was doing an internship and I met [2000 candidate for vice president] Joe Lieberman. I had on my name tag; it said "Jeb Bush." And I ended up striking up a 15-minute conversation with him because of my name. It was right after the 2000 election, so we talked about that. He made a joke like "Too bad you couldn't make me vice president."

Ted Cruz, New York City: Well, my politics aren't exactly with his. It's kind of weird. I do get the occasional quip from people that meet me. It has made me a little aware any time I see my name and other people see it at the same time. I've become more and more aware of that as he gets more and more notoriety.

Jeb Bush, Savannah: Whenever he was governor of Florida—it was kind of fun then. Not that many people really knew who he was. I ran for student body president. Being close to Florida, I would take his campaign posters and change them to say "Jeb for President." Really, nobody seemed to know who he was until the 2000 election. And that's when there was the whole Florida debacle. That's when everybody started saying, "Are you related? Are you related? Are you related?"

Ted Cruz, Scottsdale: I was a trainer for teachers using some of their interactive SMART Boards in their classrooms. I sent out an email to the teachers, and one teacher, who was a social studies teacher, only opened it and read it because the name was on it and she thought it was from the senator from Texas. Being a teacher and you think the senator's calling you, I would imagine she was disappointed.

Jeb Bush, Savannah: I've worked for several liberal nonprofit organizations as well. So that is always interesting. Nobody really believes me. Getting Jeb Bush through the door at some organizations seems a little difficult for some people. People are like, "Do we want to hire a Bush? This is a liberal organization." Actually—I didn't find this out until later—I spent some time working for the Girl Scouts. They thought that I was Jeb Bush's son. And whenever I applied for that job, they sent it all through legal. Before they even interviewed me they called the legal department and everything, trying to find out what they should do.

Ted Cruz, New York City: When people meet me, they'll say, "Oh yes, so you're not the politician." I just kind of shrug it off. Like, "No. Not me. He just has the same name."

Jeb Bush, Savannah: Right now it's just every time I introduce myself to somebody: "Are you running for president? Are you running for president?" It gets a little old.

Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush
Clockwise from top left: Ted Cruz (the politician), Ted Cruz (of Scottsdale, AZ), Jeb Bush (of Savannah, GA), Jeb Bush (the politician). Reuters/Ted Cruz/Jeb Bush/Reuters

On the unexpected perks of being named Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush:

Jeb Bush, Savannah: I spent four years living in Washington, D.C. My favorite story about my name is a group of friends and I—probably about 13 or 14 of us—went out to dinner on a Friday night in downtown D.C. without reservations. We walked into a restaurant and they said it would be at least an hour. I said, "That's fine, there's a bar across the street, I'll give you my cell phone number, give us a call when the table's ready." And then they said, "What do you want us to hold the table under?" "Well, my name's Jeb Bush." They said, "No, are you serious?" I'm like, "Yeah. Tonight's my birthday party with my friends. Tomorrow night is the party at the White House." And we got seated in about five minutes.

Ted Cruz, New York City: A little bit of media attention where people pull my name out or pull me out and just use the name relation. There was a recent article on a music website about Ted Cruz in music. Then they mentioned me.

Jeb Bush, Savannah: That's really the only time I've ever lied about being related or being with them. But I did several times while I was there call in favors for work. They would ask if I'm related, and I would just say, "I don't like to use who my family is for personal gain." I would imply it! But I wasn't lying. Just implying.

Ted Cruz, New York City: The only good thing about it is it might put my name out there a little bit more. Maybe people might want to know a little bit more about what I do. I haven't really thought about it being good or bad. It is what it is. I'm OK with it.

On whether they would vote for the candidate who shares their name:

Ted Cruz, Scottsdale: No. I would not vote for him.

Jeb Bush, Savannah: Absolutely not. I'm a hard-core Democrat.

Ted Cruz, New York City: Probably not. My politics and his aren't similar.

… and whether they're afraid that candidate will win.

Ted Cruz, Scottsdale: He'll get a lot of backing. A lot of people like extremists. You look at the popularity of Ms. Palin. I'd be worried.

Jeb Bush, Savannah: A little bit! But I've got faith in Hillary.

Ted Cruz, New York City: I'm not worried about it. If that happens, I'm ready for that.

Jeb Bush, right, of Savannah is "a huge Hillary fan" and met the then-Senator in 2003, when he was working in Washington. Jeb Bush

On the prospect of changing their name to avoid confusion:

Ted Cruz, New York City: Nah. Theodore's my dad. I wouldn't change it. I've had this name so far. I like it. I like the name.

Jeb Bush, Savannah: I thought about going by Joseph, since it is my first name. But it's who I am. I grew up [as Jeb], everybody knows me as Jeb. So it's hard to do that.

Ted Cruz, Scottsdale: The name on my birth certificate is Joseph Theodore. In the neighborhood I was growing up in, every child was named Joseph. So I graduated from my first name to my middle name. I would not change it to Theodore.

Ted Cruz, New York City: It's been in my family for a while. My granddad was Theodore Cruz.

On what they would say if they met the candidate who shares their name:

Ted Cruz, Scottsdale: If I were to meet him, I would hopefully be prepared to open up some doors of discussion. I know that he backs off and changes his attitude every once in a while. I hope I would do my homework and be prepared to ask questions and find out where he's really at.

Jeb Bush, Savannah: Ask him to change his name?

Ted Cruz, New York City: "It's nice to meet you. We have the same name." That's about it. It'd be a cordial meeting. We have the same name.

Note: One additional Jeb Bush declined (through a representative) to be interviewed for this article. He is Jeb Bush Jr., a partner at a realty firm in Miami—and the youngest son of the former Florida governor.