- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

DALLAS — Richard “Kinky” Friedman was standing in front of the Alamo at dawn on Thursday, gnawing on a thick cigar when he made his charge: “I call for the unconditional surrender of Rick Perry,” the country singer boomed.

The location of the event was apropos for Mr. Friedman’s official announcement that he was going to challenge the popular Republican governor for the statehouse in 2006. About 200 onlookers cheered the musician, who regaled them with a few gags, one-liners and a promise, “We’re gypsies on a pirate ship and we’re setting sail for the governor’s mansion.”

Even Mr. Friedman’s most fervent backers generally agree winning is the longest of long shots.

“But he says it like it is,” chortled one woman who claimed she had driven from Pflugerville to attend the unusually timed announcement and wondered out loud why the event was scheduled at dawn.

The answer was not long in coming. Mr. Friedman soon was live, being interviewed by Don Imus on the MSNBC cable news talk show “Imus in the Morning,” sharing with the whole nation his unorthodox campaign opener.

Mr. Friedman, 60, has long been an iconoclastic satirist, country vocalist and accomplished musician.

He enjoyed modest success with a traveling band called “The Texas Jewboys” who churned out such tunes as “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed” and “Wild Man from Borneo.” He was a part of Bob Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder” revue a generation ago.

In recent years he has written and published 17 mystery novels. That his latest book is scheduled to be released next month was not lost on reporters covering his Alamo bash.

The entry of the colorful Mr. Friedman is likely to spice up the race.

“I think that Kinky has the potential to enliven the debate,” Perry campaign director Luis Saenz said. “After watching ‘the Kinkster’ on the ‘I’ Man show this morning, it appears that the Democrats aren’t the only ones who have been smoking something.”

Contrived or not, serious or not, the Texas press ate it up.

The Dallas Morning News ran a Page One story about the situation, with a jump inside that devoured at least 80 percent of a full page. The Houston Chronicle commented that “Friedman is sure to provide political writers more than enough off-the-wall humor and zany escapades to fill otherwise boring days on the campaign trail.”

“The Kinkster,” as he likes to call himself, has no campaign money yet, and says he isn’t worried about that. “We don’t have any money and we’re not aggressively looking for it,” he said straight-faced.

What he admits is worrisome is getting on the ballot as an independent. State law requires that he collect 45,540 signatures in 30 days, starting in March after the Democratic and Republican primaries, and from registered voters who did not participate in either major party primary.

Thinking about that chore moved Mr. Friedman to consider downing a taste of Irish whiskey that morning, he said.

“You know, what I could use is a shot of Jameson’s right now,” he said.

Though Dallas billionaire Ross Perot made it onto the ballot in two presidential campaigns, there is no record of any independent gathering enough support in a Texas gubernatorial race.

What about his platform?

Well, he said he is for casino gambling, more safeguards against wrongful executions and against the declawing of cats. He pushed his support of homosexual “marriage” with another staccato one-liner: “They have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us.”

Health insurance reform? Immigration? A state income tax? “Read my lips,” he smiled, “I don’t know.”

Comparing himself to “Seabiscuit, everyman’s horse,” Mr. Friedman said he was dead serious about this venture. “I don’t expect to show or place. I expect to win.”

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