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Kinky Friedman Runs for Texas Governor

Musician-turned-mystery author Kinky Friedman (search) is promising an unconventional campaign in his independent bid to get elected Texas governor next year.

Wearing blue jeans, black cowboy hat, a black fringed Western jacket and smoking a cigar, Friedman announced his candidacy in front of the Alamo on Thursday morning.

"We're going to wake up this great slumbering giant of Texas independence," he said just after sunrise.

About 200 people were present for the announcement.

Friedman's announcement came 13 months before Democrats and Republicans select their nominees. He labeled the parties as "decaf or regular, paper or plastic."

"I want the thing to be fun," he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "But you can do something fun and still have it be important."

"It's no choice at all," he said of the established parties. "Now we'll have a choice, a voice, and see if it means anything."

One hurdle he faces will be getting on the November 2006 ballot since filing regulations clearly favor the traditional parties.

He'll have up to two months in 2006, following the March primary, to collect 45,540 valid signatures on petitions to get him on the ballot later in the year as an independent. That's 1 percent of the votes cast in the November 2002 governor's race.

But according to filing rules, signatures he collects can't come from people who voted in that primary. And if there's a primary runoff, the signature period shrinks to 30 days after the runoff.

"We'll get it," he says confidently. "Things will happen."

Incumbent Rick Perry (search) is expected to seek a second full term, but a pair of fellow Republicans, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (search) and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn (search), have been mentioned as rivals for the GOP nomination.

"The Kinkster's independent candidacy is no less of a joke than what Democrats have put up in recent years," says Luis Saenz, Perry's campaign manager.

Friedman's nearly two dozen books include one called "Kill Two Birds and Get Stoned." His campaign bumper stickers proclaim: "Why Not Kinky?"

His humor often plays on his Jewish background. He quotes Bob Dylan (search) and Willie Nelson (search), both friends, and he views the success of Jesse Ventura (search) in Minnesota and Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) in California as a sign he can prevail similarly in Texas.

Friedman's given first name is Richard and picked up the nickname Kinky for his wiry curly black hair when he was at the University of Texas in the 1960s.

After graduation, he joined the Peace Corps (search) and spent two years in Borneo. He had some modest success on the entertainment circuit with his band, The Texas Jewboys (search), attracting the attention of Rolling Stone magazine in 1972 and eventually touring with the famous all-star Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder Revue (search) in the mid 1970s.

A decade later, he traded music for a typewriter and wrote the first of 17 mystery novels. His readers include President Bush and former President Clinton, and both had him as an overnight guest at the White House.

In 1986, he ran unsuccessfully for justice of the peace in Kerrville, where he lives on a ranch nearby. Until now, it was his only bid for political office. More recently he has been writing a column for Texas Monthly magazine.

A key element of his campaign is the fight against what he calls the "wussification" of Texas, which he defines as political correctness run amok.

He favors legalizing casino gambling to solve the state's education finance dilemma, would push for life without parole to provide an alternative to the death penalty and create a Texas version of the Peace Corps, enlisting the help of his friends in the entertainment industry.