Thursday, May 11, 2006

Kinky Friedman presents petitions to get on November ballot
By KELLEY SHANNON

AP Political Writer


AUSTIN — Musician and author Kinky Friedman took his rebel campaign for governor to state authorities Thursday, presenting 169,574 voter signatures he hopes will get him on the November ballot as an independent candidate.

"All I can say is, thank God for bars and dance halls," said Friedman, a self-described humorist who wore his trademark black cowboy hat and chomped a cigar while explaining where many signatures came from.

With Friedman-style fanfare, the candidate and his entourage arrived at the Texas Secretary of State's Office to a cheering throng of volunteers. The campaign's 11 cardboard boxes of petitions were hauled there by the increasingly famous "Gov Bug," a little pink trailer topped by a big black hat.

Perched on the steps of the state agency before entering, Friedman explained that he didn't know the exact number of signatures his volunteers had collected. Then he opened a large envelope that contained the number, to whoops and hollers from supporters.

"This is what democracy is all about," Friedman said, adding that it didn't matter whether a voter signature came from a country club or a homeless shelter.

Independent gubernatorial candidates had to collect 45,540 signatures from registered voters by Thursday's deadline to make it onto the ballot.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the other major independent in the race, turned in Tuesday what her campaign said were 223,000 registered voter signatures. Her campaign turned in another 5,800 on Thursday, but the Secretary of State's Office said they will not be added to her total.

Asked about Strayhorn gathering more signatures than he did, Friedman quipped, "Of course she got more signatures than we. She had all her ex-husbands sign."

Seriously, though. Friedman said he believes the number of signatures collected by the two campaigns combined represents a large percentage of Texans who aren't happy with the status quo in politics.

Both campaigns acknowledge some signatures could be deemed invalid, but said they expect their candidates to easily make the ballot.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democrat Chris Bell will be on the fall ballot because they won their parties' primaries in March.

The hoopla over the petition deadline amounts to a "nonevent" and shows how important it is for Bell to have his party's nomination, said Bell spokesman Jason Stanford.

"At every stop, he's officially on the ballot," Stanford said, noting that Bell was campaigning in the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday. "It's tremendously difficult and expensive to run as an independent, which is why no one ever does it, and which is why Friedman and Strayhorn are going to lose."

No independent candidate has been elected Texas governor since Sam Houston in 1859.

Strayhorn's son and campaign manager, Brad McClellan, didn't comment directly on Friedman's effort. He portrayed the governor's race as a two-person contest between Strayhorn and Perry.

"Clearly, the people have spoken, and spoken loudly," McClellan said. "Texas voters want to shake Austin up. They want a change in leadership."

Perry's spokesman, Robert Black, took a jab at Strayhorn's campaign for turning in 101 partially filled boxes of petitions.

"Out of the two, Kinky Friedman is the only one who knows how to fill up a box," Black said.

The Secretary of State's Office has said it will take five or six weeks to verify whether Friedman and Strayhorn have enough valid signatures. An outside vendor will input the names into a computer database, then state officials will check the names for validity.

Even though the campaigns said they verified signatures themselves, state officials still have the duty to check the petitions, said Scott Haywood, spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State's Office.

Those who signed the independent candidates' petitions cannot have voted in the Republican or Democratic primaries or runoffs. Voters cannot sign more than one independent petition, or the signature provided second won't be counted.

A cross-check to see whether a voter signed both petitions will be done toward the end of the verification process, Haywood said, and both candidates will learn at the same time whether they made the ballot.

"We'll let them know as soon as we have an answer," he said.

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Kelley Shannon* has covered politics and government in Austin since 2000.

*She and her husband, Michael Pearson, are both friends of mine.

5 comments:

Lulu Maude said...

Texas can one-up California by electing an entertainer with some smarts.

Karen Zipdrive said...

As you may already suspect, Texans are even more peculiar than Californians.
As such, a man like Kinky Friedman can play all sides, using his wit and humor to help build a consensus.
Our last two governors have been colossal failures- Bush and Perry.
Like Kinky says, how can can it be to do a better job?

Karen Zipdrive said...

errata:
Like Kinky says, how HARD can it be to do a better job?

dusty said...

whoop!! I love the line about her ex's signing..

I hope Kinky wins..an entertainer w/brains would be a first in any state.

Karen Zipdrive said...

Texas is a big, funny, weird state.
We need a Governor with a BIG PERSONALITY, like Ann Richards had.
Kinky will help remove the stench of Bush claiming Texas as his home.
We need to restore Texas to its pre-Bushian condition, and Kinky's the perfect JewBoy to get the job done.