Carole's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2
'Now, That's What I Call Opportunism!'
If there's one thing Carole Keeton Strayhorn has changed as readily as her surnames, it's been her political affiliations. Strayhorn (then "McClellan") wasn't required to identify as Republican or Democrat in her time on the Austin Independent School District board (1972-1977) or when she was elected as Austin mayor in 1977 and 1980 ("Rylander" by then). But with Texas solidly "blue" at the time, so was Strayhorn, serving as Walter Mondale's campaign chair for Travis County in his ill-fated 1984 bid. Sensing the changing sentiment after Ronald Reagan's electoral landslide – and with nowhere else to go from her next gig on the State Board of Insurance – Rylander became a Republican in 1986 to challenge the legendary Dem J.J. Pickle for a congressional seat. Pickle trounced her, but as an R she was elected in 1994 to the Texas Railroad Commission,* then was elected state comptroller in 1998, holding that position for eight years.
When Strayhorn (she divorced Curtis Rylander in 1995 and married Ed Strayhorn in 2003) decided to run for governor in 2006, polls showed incumbent Rick Perry would trounce her in a primary. The solution? The Democrat turned Republican now turned independent, bypassing the primary to make her assault on Perry. Well, kinda: "I am a Republican," she said in a statement at the time. "But I know we must set partisan politics aside and do what's right for Texas. It's time to shake Austin up." In the end, Strayhorn garnered 18% of the vote (13% in Travis Co.), behind Perry and Dem Chris Bell but ahead of fellow independent Kinky Friedman.
*This sentence has been corrected; when originally published, it erroneously stated that Strayhorn was appointed to the Railroad Commission.