"Kinky For Governor"
Many celebrities have run for the governorship of their respective states. Some have failed miserably, while some have found success. The successful ones of course include actors Reagan and Schwarzenegger in California and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura in Minnesota. Celebrity stumping for the state house is not a new phenomenon. Country music star Jimmie "You Are My Sunshine" Davis was elected governor of Louisiana in 1944. Country legend Roy Acuff lost his bid for the governorship of Tennessee in 1948.
Maybe not as famous as some of the aforementioned candidates, but truly one of the most intriguing, eclectic, and remarkable persons to ever seek the governorship of any state has to be Richard "Kinky" Friedman of my great state of Texas. Friedman gained his nickname in college in reference to his curly hair. Kinky in all of his 61 years has been a satirical country musician, humanitarian, mystery writer, world class raconteur, columnist, and habitual cigar smoker. One might describe him as a mixture of Frank Zappa, Will Rogers, and Mark Twain. Among his high profile friends and fans are Bill Clinton, Willie Nelson, Don Imus, and Bob Dylan. He's been nominated this year for the Thurber Prize for American humor.
Texas election laws truly discourage independent candidates. Friedman had to adhere to a cumbersome election law requiring him to file a petition signed by at least 45,000 registered voters who did not vote in the March 7, 2006 primary. Having overcome that obstacle with twice as many verified signatures as needed, Friedman began the daunting task of getting folks to take him seriously as a gubernatorial candidate.
Politicians must be discreet and never utter anything offensive, whereas Friedman is careful to always say something offensive. The roots of his political incorrectness go back to the 70's when he started a band called Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. They achieved a cult following with such songs as, Asshole from El Paso which was a parody of Merle Haggard's Okie From Muskogee, Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In Bed, a send up of women's liberation, The Ballad Of Charles Whitman, about a sniper who terrorized the University of Texas campus in 1966, and Ride 'Em Jewboy which perhaps is the only country song written about the Holocaust. He would later tour with Dylan and appear on Saturday Night Live as musical guest.
When his music career began to fade in the 80's, Friedman began writing a string of successful mystery novels. They include:The Love Song Of J. Edgar Hoover, Armadillos and Old Lace, and Kill Two Birds and Get Stoned. The books feature fictionalized versions of him and real life friends solving crimes in New York City. Along the way, Friedman treats his adoring readers with jokes, wisdom, cigar smoke, Texas charm, and Jameson's whiskey.
Friedman's take on the issues run from his thoughtful, well reasoned, leave no teacher behind education program to his clearly outrageous border control plan which involves large sums of cash and Mexican generals. Mainly he "wants Texas to be number one in something other than executions, toll roads, property taxes, and high school dropouts." Friedman has two other opponents in the race, well... three, if you count little known token Democrat Chris Bell. The other two in the race are incumbent Republican governor and Bush crony Rick Perry and Independent state comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. As for Perry, he resembles a department store mannequin only with better hair and a tan. No offense to department store mannequins. What would normally be an easy victory in this reddest of red states has turned into a nightmare for Perry due to his unpopularity. Carole on the other hand has been a Democrat, she's been a Republican, and now she's an Independent. At one time or another she has gone by the names Carole Keeton, Carole McClellan, Carole Rylander and now Carole Strayhorn. Talk about an identity crisis! Incredulously, she rose through the political ranks by repeating the slogan "I'm one tough grandma." Please Goofy take me by the hand.
If elected, Friedman would be the first independent candidate elected to the position since Sam Houston in 1859, as well as the first Jewish governor of Texas. There are those who would have you believe, including the current resident of the White House that the governor of Texas is omnipotent. But under the state constitution, the governor's duties are rather narrowly defined and severely limited. The governor is basically relegated to being chief spokesman and cheerleader for the state. Beyond that, Friedman could change the governor's role to that of Chief Provocateur—provoking us not only to thought, but to action against the entrenched power brokers and special interests who in reality run this state via the legislature and courts. Imagination and inspiration are key. Friedman has those qualities, Perry doesn't. So when someone mentions the possibility of crazy Zen cowboy humorist Kinky Friedman becoming the next governor of Texas, I don't laugh. I say why the hell not.