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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Kinky candidacy stirs up Texas race
Kinky Friedman with Jesse Ventura
Kinky Friedman says he is putting entertainment back into politics

The BBC's James Coomarasamy travels to Texas to meet one of the most colourful candidates standing in the US mid-term elections.

He has a political slogan for just about everything; from his unlikely candidacy for governor of Texas ("why the hell not?") to his ever-present Cuban cigar ("I'm not helping the Cuban economy, I'm burning their fields").

These are slogans which are immortalised in his talking Kinky Friedman action doll.

You may get the impression that the Jewish country singer turned detective novelist - whose main protagonist also goes by the name of "Kinky Friedman" - is causing a bit of a political stir in the lone star state.

"Musicians can run this state better than politicians," he told me. "Hell - so could beauticians."

'Begging for truth'

His independent run for the job once held by President Bush is certainly unconventional - and, increasingly, controversial.

I've written songs like 'They ain't making Jews like Jesus any more', so I bring a little entertainment value into politics
Kinky Friedman

He has faced recent criticism for referring to Hurricane Katrina evacuees as "crack heads and thugs", but his message of cracking down on the crime wave, which seems to have followed them from New Orleans to Houston, is a popular one.

So is his plan to send 10,000 troops to the US-Mexican border, to deal with the problem of illegal immigration.

At a recent fundraising concert in the state capital, Austin, the would-be governor wandered through the crowd, in his distinctive black cowboy hat and black shirt, basking in the applause and speaking of his pride at being politically incorrect.

"I'm not afraid to offend people," he says.

"I've written songs like 'They ain't making Jews like Jesus any more', so I bring a little entertainment value into politics, as well as the truth, and the people are begging for the truth."

Grandma's challenge

If his campaign looks in any way familiar, that's because it is modelled on that of the former professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura, who captured the governor's seat in Minnesota eight years ago.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn
One tough grandma: Carole Keeton Strayhorn

Kinky has been endorsed by Ventura himself, and the pair have been on a joint college speaking tour.

Kinky (real name Richard - the "kinky", apparently, refers to his wavy hair) is not the only independent candidate for the job.

He is joined by the former mayor of Austin, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who has tried to match Kinky in the nickname stakes by calling herself "one tough grandma".

In fact, she tried, unsuccessfully, to have the "grandma" put on the ballot papers.

She is usually a Republican, with a message of being tough on crime - especially on sex offenders.

But she has decided to challenge the Republican incumbent, Rick Perry, with the help of her four sons; one of whom, Scott McClellan (or - as his mother refers to him, "baby boy Scott") was - until earlier this year - White House spokesman.

An almighty wind up?

What chance do these candidates have?

Texas football fans
Friedman hopes his theatricality will appeal to Texans

Well, Texas is, these days, a largely Republican state and, once you travel to the more conservative suburbs of Austin, you quickly find that governor Perry remains the most likely winner.

Yet - even among those who have made up their minds to vote for Rick Perry, you find support for the Kinky concept, if not the Kinky candidacy.

"I'm eccentric and I believe that somebody different is where it's at, you know," one woman told me.

"I don't know that we can do any worse right now," said another Texan voter.

"We've got experience now and it hasn't got us too far, so maybe we need a change to shake it up a little bit."

With its overt theatricality, there is, of course, the suspicion that the Kinky Friedman campaign is one almighty wind-up, an elaborate marketing exercise by an author who is having his every move video-taped for a documentary.

But the people of Texas, it seems, don't really mind.




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