The Austin Chronicle

The Kinkster Returns: This Time as a Democrat

By Michael King, May 15, 2009, News

He's got a website and a new populist spiel: singer-songwriter and novelist Kinky Friedman says he's running for Texas governor again, not as an independent (as he did in 2006) but as a card-carrying Democrat. "My heroes have always been Democrats," Friedman told a capacity crowd at the First Unitar­ian Universalist Church public affairs forum last month. He said his first political hero was presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson (who lost to Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and in 1956) and that his only mistake in 2006 was not to follow Stevenson's example. "Had I run as a Democrat," Friedman said, "I believe I would be governor now."

Mixing his trademark irreverent jokes, rambling showbiz anecdotes, and political commentary, Friedman said he intends to make Texas a "no-kill state": "No-kill cats, no-kill dogs, and no-kill people." Adamantly opposed to the death penalty, he cited the recent case of Timothy Cole (exonerated of a rape charge only after he'd died in prison) and noted that 41% of inmates on Texas' death row are African-American. Of his opposition to capital punishment, Friedman told the church attendees, "I'm sorry you have to hear this from a Jew, but that's who you heard it from the last time." Yet he also noted that he'd be seeking swing-voter support in the suburban and rural areas of Texas – "the [Bill] O'Reilly watchers is who we want" – so he "wouldn't be talking about the death penalty in West Texas." There is "one overarching issue," he said. "It's time to win."

Friedman mentioned that he's asked former Department of Agriculture commissioner and Chronicle columnist Jim Hightower for advice. High­tower confirmed this week that while he's not committed to a candidate, he's advising Friedman "on everything from whether he should run to what he ought to be saying. ... He's calling for a 'New Deal for Texas,' talking to the working people, calling for an Emergency Civilian Corps." Hightower said Friedman is willing to learn and "trying to figure it out, and I'm trying to help him put his best foot forward."

Asked if he thinks Friedman knows enough about how government works, Hightower snorted: "As opposed to Dubya Bush and Rick Perry? ... That's the standard. I know he wants to be a good governor, and he's willing to study to do so." Hightower dismissed Dal­las businessman Tom Schieffer, also considering the race, as not only just another "Republican running as a Democrat" but "the guy who gave Bush his millions." (Schieffer was president of the Texas Rangers when Bush parlayed a small investment into a disproportionately big payoff.) "I'm looking for a Democrat," said Hightower, "and he has to carry on that populist Texas tradition."

Copyright © 2022 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.