AUSTIN, Texas – If you're an independent candidate for Texas governor and you've just been declared eligible for the November ballot, what do you do next?
The answer, of course, is try to get your nickname on the ballot.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn wants voters to see "Grandma" as part of her ballot name. Richard "Kinky" Friedman just wants to be known as Kinky Friedman.
Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams asked both candidates to supply additional information to help him make his decision. It's sounding like he'll let Kinky be Kinky, but won't let Carole be Grandma.
The two candidates collected enough registered voter signatures to get on the ballot, setting up a historic five-way race with Strayhorn, Friedman, Republican Gov. Rick Perry, Democrat Chris Bell and Libertarian James Werner.
A decision on how the independents will be listed must come before the ballot is certified in September, 55 days before the Nov. 7 election.
"It appears that your use of the term 'Grandma' within your name constitutes a slogan," Williams said in a letter to Strayhorn, explaining that the Texas Election Code bans the use of a slogan as a nickname.
He asked Strayhorn to provide any information to verify that "Grandma" doesn't constitute a political slogan. Secretary of State's Office spokesman Scott Haywood noted that "Grandma" even appeared on the campaign letterhead Strayhorn used in asking that her name be listed as "Carole Keeton 'Grandma' Strayhorn" on the ballot.
Strayhorn calls herself "one tough grandma" and says she's been known by the nickname since being elected Texas comptroller in 1998. Strayhorn ran as a Republican for that office, but opted out of the GOP primary this year against Perry to run for governor as an independent.
Meanwhile, Williams told Friedman that the name "Kinky" appears to be an acceptable nickname under the election code. Williams said it appears that Friedman's given first name "Richard" would also have to appear, given the specifics of the law. He asked Friedman for any additional information to show why it shouldn't be listed that way.
Friedman applied to be listed simply as Kinky Friedman.
"We fully expect that the Secretary of State will apply the election law fairly to all candidates, and we are currently reviewing Mr. Williams' interpretation of the law as it applies to Kinky," Friedman campaign spokeswoman Laura Stromberg said in a statement.
Williams confirmed Thursday that Strayhorn and Friedman qualified for the November ballot. Both were expecting that news, given the large number of petition signatures they submitted in May.
The last independent candidate elected Texas governor was Sam Houston in 1859.
Strayhorn and Friedman don't appear to be operating their campaigns any differently than before they became official candidates.
Strayhorn held a news conference Friday in her role as Texas comptroller. Her campaign is working to raise money, as are other candidates, before a June 30 fundraising report deadline.
Friedman said he's planning a trip to New Mexico to meet with Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson to learn about his state's experiences with illegal immigration along the Mexico border.
Friedman — a proponent of legalizing casino gambling in Texas to fund schools — said he just returned from a fact-finding mission in Las Vegas where he played the slot machines.