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from: this is no joke
Posted on Fri, Feb. 04, 2005 It's no joke -- Kinky's in the race for governor SAN ANTONIO - Standing in front of the Alamo, live on early-morning radio and TV, smoking a Cuban cigar and wearing his trademark black cowboy hat, Kinky Friedman kicked off his independent campaign for governor Thursday. Really. "We're gypsies on a pirate ship, and we're settin' sail for the Governor's Mansion," the writer and musician declared before a bank of TV cameras, a throng of campaign groupies and several bewildered tourists. "We are calling for the unconditional surrender of Rick Perry." He may get laughs, but Friedman, 60, insists that his campaign to unseat the Republican incumbent is no joke. Friedman already has a campaign treasurer and a spokesman, and he says he will strive to overcome the long odds of getting on the ballot as an independent candidate -- requiring an arduous petition drive next year. The "Jewish Cowboy" also acknowledges that he needs to brush up on major issues affecting Texas. After enunciating his support for casino gambling, more death penalty safeguards and gay marriage -- "They have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us," he said -- Friedman gets a little vague. A state income tax? Friedman said he'd have to think about it. He gave much the same answer on health insurance reform and immigration: "Read my lips: I don't know." He has not a trace of shame for the answer, he says. "I'm proud of 'I don't know,' " he said. "You never hear a politician say it." When questioned about the cigar, Friedman insisted that he was not a supporter of Cuba's communist economy but rather, he said, "I'm burning their fields." Tucked among Friedman's one-liners and hip cultural metaphors is some biting political commentary, most of it aimed at Perry, who wants to become the longest-serving governor in Texas history. Friedman says Perry is "more interested in ironing his shirts than ironing out the problems of this state." "We're No. 1 in executions and we're No. 49 in funding public education," Friedman said. "We're behind Mississippi. And when you're behind Mississippi, you've got problems." Luis Saenz, director of Perry's re-election campaign, used a little humor of his own to shoot back at Friedman in a written statement. "After 20 years of public policy and political leadership, Rick Perry knows that being governor of Texas is the greatest job in the world," Saenz said. "I think that Kinky has the potential to enliven the debate. And after watching the Kinkster on the 'I' Man show this morning, it appears that the Democrats are not the only ones who have been smoking something." Saenz was referring to Don Imus, the early-morning New York radio talk-show host who put Friedman on the air live from Alamo Plaza. TV viewers watched a simultaneous broadcast on MSNBC. That's how Friedman's unconventional announcement began -- with the media outside the Alamo hearing only his side of the interview with Imus. There were no banners, no aides distributing news releases or position papers. "Just a wide shot. That's all," an aide yelled, pushing the crowd back a bit to ensure that the Alamo would be in the TV picture. Country singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver delivered a prayerful a cappella song, Son of Calvary. Later, at the historic Menger Hotel across the street, violin-toting youngsters played an energetic version of Yellow Rose of Texas and the band Asleep at the Wheel sang Miles and Miles of Texas. There was a media kit, too, if you could call it that. Rather than the typical campaign literature and paraphernalia, though, it contained a bottle of Farouk Friedman Olive Oil -- sale proceeds go to charity. There was some for-profit hair lotion in there too, for some reason. Friedman hasn't collected a dime of campaign money yet: "We don't have any money, and we're not aggressively looking for it," he said. Still, on Jan. 28, Friedman officially designated a campaign treasurer. That means he can start raising and spending political money if he wants to, said Tim Sorrells, assistant general counsel at the Texas Ethics Commission. Aides say prospective donors have already asked how to contribute. They couldn't say how much Friedman would need, but collecting the necessary signatures to get on the ballot won't be easy or cheap. He needs 45,540 Texans -- representing 1 percent of the 2002 gubernatorial vote -- who don't vote in the primaries to sign a petition. It will be an uphill climb because he can't begin collecting them until the end of the major party primaries, scheduled for March 7, 2006. If he's lucky, he'll have two months. If there's a runoff in either the Democrat or Republican primary, he effectively will have only one month, aides said. Though Ross Perot got on the Texas ballot twice as an independent presidential candidate, there is no modern record of an independent gubernatorial candidate doing it, said Bill Kenyon, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office. That's the agency that does the counting. Just thinking about the "enormous" impediments he faces made Friedman want a drink of Irish whiskey -- at 9 a.m. "You know what I could use is a shot of Jameson's right now," he said.
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