Kinky Friedman: The Anti-Toll Road, Pro-Gambling and Pot Candidate Takes Another Stab at the Governor's Mansion

Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison are sure to grab most of the headlines between now and the March 2 primary elections as they trade insults while seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but Kinky Friedman spices up an otherwise bland field of Democratic candidates. The author and musician who's never afraid to say what's on his mind aims to stop the use of toll roads, legalize gambling, decriminalize marijuana use and reform the education and criminal justice systems.

"My slogan is Power to the People," Friedman tells Unfair Park. "I think that power's been hijacked by people like Rick Perry, politicians, special interests, big corporations and lobbyists. That power needs to be returned to the people. I can't do it nationally, but I think I can do it in Texas."

Friedman, who received 12.6 percent of the vote when he ran for governor in 2006, says he should have realized not to run as an independent because the only one to successfully do so in Texas was Sam Houston. "We came in there with nothing -- no money as an independent candidate. When you say that, you've got to figure out what [2006 Democratic nominee] Chris Bell would have got if he'd run as an independent. He wouldn't have gotten 13 percent. He would have gotten 1 percent if he were lucky."

Former state representative and Texas Rangers president Tom Schieffer, rancher Hank Gilbert, ex-Railroad Commission nominee Mark Thompson and teacher Felix Alvarado are also vying for the Democratic nomination, and Friedman stresses that he'll endorse whoever wins. "I would prefer any Democrat to Rick or Kay," he says. How does he stack up with Schieffer? "Oh, I don't even think about him. I don't know him -- never met him. I just know his smarter, older brother Bob."

Toll roads help the state, not the people, Friedman says, which is why he wants to not only ban future toll roads, but convert the current ones into free roads. "It's a public trust -- has been for over a 100 years. We pay our taxes, and the state builds the roads."

Untold billions of dollars in funding would be required to accomplish such an ambitious proposition, but Friedman says the Texas Enterprise Fund and money he claims is missing from the state's share of the lottery proceeds could be tapped. "There's lots of ways to pay for anything we want to do. It's never been a lack of money. It's always been a lack of leadership. Rick Perry can get money whenever he needs it."

Setting up a legalized gambling zone in Texas, which would include Galveston and Corpus Christi, is another way Friedman says the state can raise funds. "This is not common sense to be giving all our money to Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mexico and Las Vegas."

Friedman, whose parents were both educators, says as governor his appointees to the Texas State Board of Education would have experience in public school classrooms. He also would institute a $3,000 annual raise for all teachers and end the practice of teaching based on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.

"I believe education should be teaching kids to think for themselves," he says. "I believe it should start in the schoolroom and work out from there -- not be superimposed from the top down on the classrooms."