Kinky Friedman Turns To Politics

APRIL 30: Singer Kinky Friedman attends the White House Correspondents' Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel on April 30, 2005 in Washington DC. GETTY

"I saw miles and miles of Texas, all the stars up in the sky..." sings a well-known Texas music maker.

Of all those bright Texas stars, reports Correspondent Lee Cowan on CBS News Sunday Morning, that music maker is one with a mouth like a sailor, a wardrobe like Johnny Cash, and a cigar like Winston Churchill. And he's got cowboys talking and politicians nervous.

He's Kinky Friedman, as much a part of the Lone Star state's landscape as cattle and sagebrush, who's now decided the Texas governor's mansion would be a fitting place to hang his hat.

Friedman insisted to Cowan that he's "absolutely, very serious" about winning.

"We're number one in executions, and we're number 49 in funding public education," Friedman tells Cowan. "I mean, we're lagging behind Mississippi. When you're behind Mississippi, ya know you've got a problem."
Freidman chuckled at the thought.

And if you think Mississippi was offended, stick around. Friedman has made a career of shooting from the lip.

Everything, and everyone, is fair game, Cowan says.

Answering a reporter's question at a recent news conference, Friedman said, "I support gay marriage because I believe they have right to be just as miserable as the rest of us!"

The line drew laughs.

His candidacy may sound like a joke, Cowan says. He may even look a bit like one at times. But he's counting on a change in attitude in Texas politics, summed up flatly by longtime humorist Molly Ivins this way: "On the matter of Kinky for governor, my response is, why the hell not!"

After all, notes Cowan, he does have his positions, and certainly his passions.

On education: "Our teachers are getting screwed, blued and tattooed by this system, and our government does not seem to care about what's happening to them."

On the death penalty: "I am not anti-death penalty, but I'm damn sure anti-the-wrong-guy-getting executed."

He's even got a pretty clear fiscal policy: "Before he died, an accountant asked my father, 'What are you financial goals?' And he said, 'My financial goals are for my last check to bounce!' "

Friedman laughed, "And that's pretty much my financial abilities, too."

Texas Monthly Editor Evan Smith, who allows Friedman a column every month, says it may well be the most interesting campaign Texas has seen in years.

"He speaks his mind," Smith says. "He is proud to be politically incorrect. He offends people almost as a matter of chemicals in his body. He can't help himself."

And some voters can't seem to get enough of it.

While Cowan was there, the phone rang off the hook with strangers offering campaign slogans.

"Got a new campaign slogan," Friedman says with a laugh. " 'Kinky Friedman, he never broke his word to the Indians.' "

"You getting a lot of suggestions like that?" Cowan asks.

"Yeah," Friedman says. "That's not a bad one. 'Never broke my word to the Indians.' That's true. That's absolutely true! Oh, Lord."

He invited Cowan out to his boyhood ranch in the Texas Hill Country, where he lives with his four dogs, who he lovingly calls "The Friedmans."

He was cooking bacon for them when Cowan arrived.

Quite frankly, Cowan concedes, he expected a day full of entertaining one-liners, but ones largely empty on substance.

But, Cowan adds, he found someone much different.

  • Brian Dakss

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