If Minnesotans elected a pro wrestler as governor and Californians put an action-movie hero in office, why shouldn't Texans make a country singer-turned-mystery writer their state's head honcho?
That's humorist Kinky Friedman's thinking in launching a serious bid to become the Lone Star State's next governor in 2006 -- as serious as possible for a man whose campaign slogan is, "How hard could it be?" and who first established himself as the sardonic writer and singer of songs such as "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore."
"If I'm elected," Richard "Kinky" Friedman, 59, said last week from his ranch in Medina, Texas, "the first thing I'll do is demand a recount."
"I call myself 'The Unpolitician,' " says Friedman, who has continued to perform sporadically over the years with the Texas Jewboys, the progressive-country band he started in the 1970s before becoming the author of more than a dozen mystery novels starring himself and his real-life friends and associates.
"It's a very George Carlin kind of thing, with the little choices available to us: paper or plastic, decaf or regular, Democrat or Republican," says Friedman, who's running as an Independent. "I think it would be refreshing having an amateur in that office, because remember, it was professionals who gave us the Titanic, and it was an amateur who built the ark."
Actually, when not reeling off another of his one-liners, Friedman said one real issue he would address would be a pardon for Max Soffar, a death row inmate whom Friedman and others believe was wrongly convicted in 1981 of a triple homicide.
An avowed animal lover -- he runs the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch on his property -- Friedman also aims to get Texas to follow Utah's lead in moving to outlaw the killing of homeless animals.
Friedman has received support from some friends in entertainment, and plans to further exploit Hollywood's influence with a visit to L.A. this week to finalize a deal for a reality-TV series following his political bid. He'll also be doing a photo shoot here for the cover of Texas Monthly.
Ultimately, he thinks the Arnold factor will work in his favor. "He really opened the door for us. A lot of people down here are saying this is not so crazy.... It's a joke to a lot of people, but an article of faith to a lot of others."
-- Randy Lewis