Sun, Mar 07, 2004 - Page 7 News List

The race for Texas governor gets Kinky

UNCONVENTIONAL A Jewish cowboy who counts Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as friends is running for governor, saying he'd kiss mothers, but not their babies

REUTERS , MEDINA, TEXAS

Author and musician Kinky Friedman at his ranch in Medina, Texas, yesterday. The composer of the song They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore has launched a politically incorrect bid to become the state's governor in 2006.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Unleash your inner Texan and vote Kinky.

Kinky Friedman, best-selling author, country music singer, humorist, friend of stray dogs and salsa merchant, is running for governor of Texas in 2006 as an independent. Friedman is the man behind the song Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed and author of the book Elvis, Jesus and Coca Cola.

For all of those wondering why the front man for the country music group The Texas Jewboys wants to run the Lone Star State, Friedman will put down his cigar and say from under his 10-gallon hat: "Why the hell not?"

"I want to fight the wussification of the state of Texas. I want to rise and shine and bring back the glory of Texas," Friedman said. "I am a writer of fiction who tells the truth."

Friedman, whose first name is Richard but is known by Kinky and a few other names that are not publishable, does not have a campaign platform -- mostly out of fear there may be a trapdoor somewhere underneath that will spring open and leave him swinging.

He writes a regular column for Texas Monthly magazine and is the author of 17 novels. His dark mystery The Prisoner of Vandam Street comes out this month.

For those interested in the ways and manners of Texas, he wrote The Guide to Texas Etiquette, or How to Get to Heaven or Hell Without Going Through Dallas-Fort Worth.

Friedman, 59, is serious about the governor's race. He hopes to campaign as a populist who will use his colorful image while borrowing a page or two from the campaign of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to build a voter base.

"We are taking a page from Howard Dean and a page from Arnold. And now the thing doesn't seem so crazy anymore to a lot of people," he said in an interview.

Friedman, who was born in Chicago and moved to Texas as a child, has a salt-and-pepper moustache, under which sits an ever-present cigar. He has curly hair that is rarely seen because he almost always wears a cowboy hat. He dresses like a cowboy and he accents his outfits with Hawaiian shirts or a Star of David medallion.

The campaign will be unconventional, irreverent and star-studded. "I just want to be as honest and as open as I can be. I will not kiss babies. I'll kiss their mothers," he said.

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said the main interest in the governor's race will be on the Republican nominee, and whether US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will come back to Texas to take on incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry.

"Until the Republican candidate becomes clear, we can entertain ourselves with Kinky," Jillson said.

And the entertainers will be on the road with Friedman.

Friedman said country music greats Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam have pledged their support along with actors Robert Duval, Billy Bob Thorton and Johnny Depp. Magicians Penn and Teller have promised to make any opponent disappear.

When it comes to bipartisan support, Friedman is one of the few people around who can list presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as friends.

Even though he may have political connections, Friedman promises that he will not be politically correct. He may take a centrist position that seems to be off the map.

After all, this is the man who wrote the song They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore.

"Traditionally Texans have been known for having a lot of wide-open spaces between our ears. But because of the expanse of geography, we have a real independent spirit, which creates some original thought once in a while," he said.

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