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Blue The Nation | April 21, 2014

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Five Reasons Texas Democrats Should Get Behind Kinky Friedman for Governor

Five Reasons Texas Democrats Should Get Behind Kinky Friedman for Governor
Jonathan Nathan

In all the hubbub surrounding Texas of late, one political figure hasn’t really been mentioned all that much. But the time is now: Blue The Nation endorses the great Jewish country singer Kinky Friedman for Texas Governor and Wendy Davis for Lt. Governor. Let’s talk about why.

1. Kinky has the same built-in name recognition and fundraising ability, but with an even broader appeal among Texans than Wendy Davis has.

The last time Kinky ran for Governor, it was 2006. He ran as an independent but mostly won ballots from liberals and left-leaning independents. He ended up finishing fourth with half a million votes. He had very little fundraising support and campaigned primarily on his name. He did run some great campaign commercials, a pair of which are embedded in this post later on. My personal favorite is “Cowboy Way.”

Kinky is pretty well the only Jewish country singer with any serious degree of fame that I’m aware of. His career peak was in the 1970s, and he did well with hits like “Ride ‘Em Jewboy,” the first and last country song about the Holocaust, “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You,” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” He still plays and draws pretty well in Texas, and has good cultural cachet in the state. And unlike Wendy Davis, whose appeal is based on her very Democratic, liberal public posture, Kinky Friedman is known primarily as that crazy ol’ Jewish country singer who ran for Governor with slogans like, “Kinky for Governor: How Hard Could It Be?” and “He Ain’t Kinky, He’s My Governor.”

2. Kinky is a Democrat in all but name, and he has expressed a desire to run again–but not as an independent.

Kinky’s never run on the actual Democratic ticket, but he’s pretty solidly a Democrat. In fact, until recent years, you’d have had to say he was more liberal than the Texas Democratic Party platform, and perhaps even more liberal than the national party. And it doesn’t look like he’s too excited about running as an independent again: “For an independent to win you have to have a huge turnout. Here in Texas, Jesus Christ couldn’t win as an independent…If I run again in 2014 it would be…as a Democrat.” Indeed, he told the Huffington Post in May, “My big mistake was running as an independent.”

Kinky envisions a reborn Democratic Party with “the moral clarity of a Barbara Jordan, the cojones of an Ann Richards, and the conscience of a Molly Ivins.” He even went so far, in 2010, as to say that the Tea Party would never have come into being had the Democrats not lost touch with its populist side. He believes that idea of the Democratic Party was exemplified by Jordan, a longtime Democratic Congresswoman and the first black woman elected to the House of Representatives, Richards, the state’s last Democratic Governor and the mother of Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, and Ivins, a legendary liberal columnist from Texas.

In 2006, he campaigned on a clean energy platform. He was unequivocally in favor of marriage equality–”We oughtta let ‘em be as miserable as the rest of us”–at a time when the national Democrats were still hawking civil unions as a compromise solution. He’s played benefit shows for Planned Parenthood and has never wavered in his support of a woman’s right to choose, once describing himself on the campaign trail as “Ann Richards in drag.”

3. Kinky wants to run a style of campaign that would be very successful if paired with a major political party’s backing and funding.

“If I run again in 2014,” the Kinkster told the Huffington Post at the end of May, “it would be as an old fashioned Harry Truman Democrat in the Democratic primary. Not as a modern day Democrat, like Harry Reid, but like Harry Truman. But if I’m running as a Democrat I’ve got to be a purist.”

What he means by that is that Texas Democrats, and indeed Texans in general, don’t want a fake Democrat. They want someone who isn’t ashamed of the party, regardless of what they think of him or his partisan alignment. “Most Texans want to know if I am serious and if I really am a Democrat,” he explained. This whole notion was put in his mind by friend and fellow country singer Ray Price, who apparently told him earlier this year, “If I ran, with that spirit of Truman in mind, a serious campaign, unlike my more absurdist campaign I ran in 2006, and if I could win the primary, I’d be the Governor of Texas.”

Kinky has talked at length about running a populist campaign centered around issues with broad-based appeal. He’ll frame social issues like a libertarian: legalize marijuana and gambling, keep the government out of women’s reproductive choices and gay people’s bedrooms, etc. He’ll frame economic issues like a tough-minded old-school Democrat: take care of what needs taking care of, spend money on what needs money spent on it, etc. That’s a kind of messaging that can win. Ray Price is right.

4. Kinky already supports Wendy Davis and would almost certainly agree to ticket with her.

When asked about a potential Wendy Davis campaign, Kinky said, “I basically support her issues all the way.” He told Bud Kennedy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he was re-evaluating his own plans and financing given the “exciting” possibility of a Davis gubernatorial run. That suggests that he might not run if she decides to, but it also certainly leaves open the possibility of a Kinky/Wendy ticket.

5. The real power in Texas legislative matters rests in the hands of the Lt. Governor; we need that power in the hands of Wendy Davis.

The Lt. Governor presides over the Texas legislature in a way the Governor really does not. That’s why most Texas progressives actually blame David Dewhurst a lot more than Rick Perry for the current regressive, reactionary state of Texas policymaking. Obviously the Governorship is important, but the person who really sets the legislative tone and agenda is the Lt. Governor. I still believe that Wendy Davis should be the Governor of Texas one day, but being the Lt. Governor would not only serve as a powerful stepping stone, it would also put a great Texas Democratic parliamentarian in charge of the Texas legislature and put a great Jewish country singer in the Governor’s seat. That’s a win any way you slice it.

  • http://jwkraft.com/ Joseph Kraft

    Regarding numbers 4 and 5, there is no joint ticket in Texas. The Governor and the Lt Governor run completely separate campaigns.