2006.11.19: November 19, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Malaysia: Writing - Malaysia: Humor: Election2006 - Friedman: Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "The people have spoken, the bastards," Friedman says, still smarting a tad from his drubbing in the Texas governor's race

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Malaysia: Special Report: Author, Humorist and Malaysia RPCV Kinky Friedman: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: RPCV Kinky Friedman (Malaysia) : 2006.11.19: November 19, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Malaysia: Writing - Malaysia: Humor: Election2006 - Friedman: Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "The people have spoken, the bastards," Friedman says, still smarting a tad from his drubbing in the Texas governor's race

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-250-74-101.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - 9:23 am: Edit Post

"The people have spoken, the bastards," Friedman says, still smarting a tad from his drubbing in the Texas governor's race

The people have spoken, the bastards, Friedman says, still smarting a tad from his drubbing in the Texas governor's race

He's already talked to Gov. Rick Perry about becoming a "goodwill ambassador" for some of his favorite causes, like stopping horse slaughter in Texas, promoting alternative fuels such as biodiesel or creating a "Texas Peace Corps."

"The people have spoken, the bastards," Friedman says, still smarting a tad from his drubbing in the Texas governor's race

Friedman's down but he's not out

Nov 19, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Nov. 19--AUSTIN -- There were no signs in the yard. No TV cameras rolling. Even the trademark black cowboy hat was, temporarily, nowhere to be found.

But behind a haze of Cuban cigar smoke and profane one-liners, the unmistakable and unapologetic presence of Richard Friedman came into focus. No, he ain't your governor.

He's just Kinky.

"The people have spoken, the bastards," Friedman says, still smarting a tad from his drubbing in the Texas governor's race. Wait a minute, scratch that.

"The people didn't really speak. They mumbled," he says. "That's the problem."

Oh, and here's a little message for the Texas media: You're lazy.

"You throw 'em a piece of red meat and they just run with it," he sneers.

OK, so it's not exactly grace in defeat. Then again, it's not the "petulant snit" the entertainer/humorist warned us about if he didn't win.

Somewhere in between is the vague notion that, despite losing, he should stay engaged in politics and do something -- why the hell not? -- responsible.

He's already talked to Gov. Rick Perry about becoming a "goodwill ambassador" for some of his favorite causes, like stopping horse slaughter in Texas, promoting alternative fuels such as biodiesel or creating a "Texas Peace Corps."

He's also hawking a hilarious new book, The Christmas Pig, a copy of which he has sent to the Perrys. "To Rick and Anita. Merry Christmas," he wrote inside. "Let's get together. I have some ideas."

Meanwhile, The Kinkster won't rule out another run for office.

'We came close'

He gets a little gleam in his eye when he talks about those heady days in September when polls showed him at 23 percent with the wind at his back.

Never mind the widespread suspicion that Friedman's candidacy was a joke, a publicity stunt or both: He really, really wanted to win.

And from the day he announced his candidacy at the Alamo in San Antonio until he saw the awful truth plastered across the TV screens at Scholz Beer Garten in Austin, he truly believed he could become the first independent Texas governor since Sam Houston.

"I think we came close to winning this thing a few times," Friedman told the Star-Telegram last week. "And I think when we really came close ... that's when they realized we gotta stop this guy."

Friedman knew the stars would have to align just right for Texas to put him in the Governor's Mansion.

But he had taken both inspiration and campaign staff from former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura, an independent candidate who rode a wave of discontent with traditional two-party politics to win the Minnesota governor's office in 1998.

Like Ventura, Friedman was a politically incorrect maverick, a celebrity who would generate plenty of news coverage. Texas also seemed ripe for an independent candidacy: Polls showed that the Republican incumbent was extremely unpopular outside his base, and the Democrats had essentially collapsed as a statewide party.

But another star was needed in the alignment: a big bloc of highly motivated supporters who rarely show up at the polls.

When Ventura won, Minnesota had a record-high 60 percent turnout among registered voters. The architect of Ventura's stunning upset, Dean Barkley, knew that Texas was unlikely to match that, but he figured Friedman would become competitive at 40 percent turnout, up from 36 percent in 2002.

It didn't happen.

While turnout rose nationally, it dropped to 33 percent in the Texas governor's race, even with four competitive candidates. Friedman never had a chance.

"If I had known the voter turnout was going to be what it was, I wouldn't have bothered to come down here," Barkley said. "Let's face it, Texas voter turnout is pathetic."

'Beginning of the end'

At least two other big factors drove Friedman's defeat: Carole Keeton Strayhorn, aka "one tough grandma," also jumped into the race as an independent, which took away Friedman's exclusive claim to the anti-establishment vote.

Or, as Friedman put it: "That was probably the beginning of the end right there."

The final blow came just as the Friedman campaign, hovering around second place, thought it could overtake the governor.

The trouble started when Friedman, lamenting a Houston crime wave fueled in part by Hurricane Katrina evacuees, came under fire for calling the perpetrators "thugs and crackheads" in early September.

Then came criticism for his use of the word Negro, which he had included years earlier in a mystery novel.

Within days, a scratchy 1980 recording of a raunchy Friedman stand-up comedy routine, in which he can be heard using the n-word, hit the Internet and exploded onto newspaper covers and TV screens all over Texas.

Friedman dismissed demands for an apology and tried to explain that he was using comedy to attack racism itself.

It was pure satire, just like the poke-fun-at-bigots screed contained in his cult-classic song, They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore, he said.

He swears he's not bitter, but Friedman acknowledges being peeved at the "uptight whites" and liberal Democrats he says tried to make him look like the "raging racist in To Kill a Mockingbird."

Some of his friends are upset and baffled, too. Last January, Friedman marched with Rodney and Crystal Hopkins -- he's black, she's white -- in the Martin Luther King parade in San Antonio.

"How could he be racist? He's a cowboy Jew," Crystal Hopkins said.

'Until the mud came out'

Alas, high concepts like satire and irony can be a hard sell in politics, particularly in the final weeks before an election. What's clear is that a month after the news hit, Friedman had dropped like a rock in the polls, and he never recovered.

"I think we did everything perfect until the mud came out," said Barkley, the campaign manager. "I thought we were right in a perfect spot to pull off a miracle. And then the wheels came off."

Friedman chuckles when he contemplates the fantasy that his maverick independent candidacy alone would be enough to spark a "people's revolution."

If he goofed on anything, he said, it was underestimating how much money a candidate needs to win a governor's race in a state with more than a dozen major media markets and far too much ground to cover for even a good shoe-leather campaign to matter much.

But why not look on the bright side? He persuaded more than a half-million people to cough it up for Kinky.

That's a lot of people in some states.

"It's enough to win in Montana or Nevada," Friedman said. "If we had picked a smaller state, we would have won."

Parting shots

Kinky Friedman may have lost the race for Texas governor, but he hasn't lost his gift for one-liners. Here's his postelection take on the outcome:

On low voter turnout

"The people didn't really speak. They mumbled. That's the problem."

On feeling rejected

"I gave Texas my phone number, and she didn't get back to me."

On campaign strategy

"If we had picked a smaller state, we would have won."

On the Texas media

"You throw 'em a piece of red meat and they just run with it."

On what's next

"I'm 62 years old, too young for Medicare, too old for women to care."


Jay Root, 512-476-4294 jroot@star-telegram.com

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Story Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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