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Aspen gets Kinky

Joel Stonington
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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Kinky Friedman – musician, novelist, animal rescuer and now gubernatorial hopeful in Texas – on Thursday brought his unique brand of politics to Aspen, where he’s doing a benefit for United Jewish Appeal.After Richard F. “Kinky” Friedman’s first career as the leader of the band the Texas Jewboys (with songs like, “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in Bed” and “Ride ’em Jewboy”), second career as a detective novelist, and third career as founder of the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, he is now running for governor. It’s not a traditional political campaign.Wearing a large leather jacket, black cowboy hat and smoking a big cigar, he referred to Democrats and Republicans as Crips and Bloods. With campaign slogans like “Why the hell not?” Friedman, who recently hired former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura’s campaign adviser Dean Barclay, is following in the footsteps of other entertainers who have had successful runs for governor.”I’d like for Texas to be first in something besides executions,” he said. “Career politicians have sold Texas out, they’ve put it on eBay.” It’s not just a shot in the dark. With help from folks like Willie Nelson, Friedman shockingly raised more money than former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, D-Texas, in a recent quarter. “Get me on the ballot,” Friedman said, “and we have a real chance of changing things in Texas.” But getting on the ballot is no simple feat for an independent candidate for governor in Texas. Friedman says it hasn’t happened in the last 147 years. Starting at midnight March 8, his campaign has 63 days to collect 50,000 signatures from Texas voters who have not voted in the primary. Friedman said he is shooting for 100,000 signatures in case some are disallowed. “Last election, 71 percent didn’t vote,” he said, “if we can get 50 percent to vote, I’m the next governor of Texas.” Part of his plan for being governor is to pick the best people in each field and then just let them go to work. “Politics,” he said, “is the only field where the more you do it the worse you get.”So Friedman says his own heroes are accidental politicians, people who saw something they didn’t like and figured they would fix it.One of his ideas is to legalize gambling in Texas to pay for better education. He wants to found a Trust for Texas Heroes, which would use taxes on large corporations to help increase the pay of teachers, firemen and others working for the public good. He mentioned getting corporate sponsors for high school sports programs so that public money will go to classrooms and teachers instead of athletics.”It’s the right race at the right time,” he said. “Everyone is mad as hell. If they come back and vote instead of going fishing, we’ll win.”Born in Chicago, Friedman moved to a ranch in Texas at an early age. He graduated from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1966 and went on to serve in the Peace Corps for two years. In 1976, he joined Bob Dylan on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour and played on “Saturday Night Live” later that year. With a background as a musician, it’s not surprising that Friedman also mentioned he would like to rename highways in Texas after state heroes Waylon Jennings, Buddy Holly, Willie Nelson, Bob Wills, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Janis Joplin.”Willie told me about a great song title,” Friedman said. “It was, ‘I Hate Every Bone in Your Body Except Mine.'” He smiled. “He’ll make a great energy adviser, though. He knows more about it than almost anyone.” Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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