Kinky Friedman has but three weeks left to submit to the state the 45,450 signatures he (and fellow independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn Rylander Jingle Heimer Schmidt) needs to get on the ballot in the fall. On Saturday, during a stump'n'sign at Bill's Records and Tapes, Friedman claimed to be closing in on 100,000 signatures--"and we'll need 'em," he said. That's true: Probably plenty of folks who signed his petitions didn't realize they couldn't cast a single vote for anyone in the primaries or need to be registered voters; plenty of suspicious minds are claiming Gov. Rick Perry's peeps will do all they can to loophole the independents into a black hole and make it a two-man race, as if, with Democratic candidate Chris Bell. (I know, I know—who? No, not the dead guy from power-pop pioneers Big Star.) And Perry has every reason to want Strayhorn and Friedman out of the race and off the debate dais; they'll muss his hair and kick his ass and send him back to teeth-whitening class.
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I've heard Friedman's campaign speech plenty of times in the past year, and it's starting to sound less like a stand-up routine and more like a stand-for-something pep talk. I truly dig his retro JFK shtick: "Ask not if you're proud of Texas; ask if Texas is proud of you." It's actually a hell of a closer, coming on the heels of tangible policy statements (if he were gov, Texas would switch to biodiesel; casino gambling would get raised and called; and he supports a guest worker program that allows for some 400,000 new guest workers per year) that prove he's not just making this up as he goes. No longer can you dismiss him as the novelty candidate; cover stories like the one in the new issue of Texas Music that seek to strip the giggles out of his laugh track are old hat at this late date. He says more in a 15-minute speech at Bill's than most candidates offer in a lifetime on the meet-and-greet circuit, and the nearly 200 folks, ranging from twentysomething stoners to sixtysomething reformed storners, who stuck around two hours for handshakes and autographs suggest he's no longer a politican novelty act.--Robert Wilonsky