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A Kinky Kind of Campaign?

Friedman may be just the one to muss up Guv Goodhair's re-election plan

And anyway, according to Friedman, the issues don't matter all that much. After all, this is only the governor's job we're talking about. In Texas, it's largely a ceremonial gig -- the lieutenant governor does much more of the hands-on work of running the state. "This is a different deal than California," he says. "Let's not pretend that governor of Texas is a difficult gig. Another of our slogans is 'How hard could it be?' My views, though I do have them, are not real relevant."

Friedman sees the office as something like becoming king of Texas. "I see it as pretty much an ambassadorial position," he says. "I want to rise and shine and bring back the glory of Texas, to fight the wussification of this state. Rick Perry's not a good guy or a bad guy -- he's just guilty of the sin of being boring. Come to think of it, he does have some Gray Davis potential."

Friedman doesn't foresee the necessity of debating Perry on the issues. "The Texas governor does no heavy lifting, and I think everybody knows that, so for me to sit there at some rubber chicken Rotary luncheon with Rick Perry discussing who has the better budget or something is ridiculous. What you want to do is inspire people, especially young people."

And the youth of Texas have not had an inspiring candidate in a long, long time. What they have had is a bunch of rich oilmen-turned-politicians and other such noninspirational folk. "The greatest governor we ever had was our first one," Friedman says of Sam Houston. "And they found him drunk under a bridge living with the Indians."

Friedman's not a politician, but he has the gift of politics, a knack for selling himself. "This is a campaign against the politician's smile," he says. "That's not a real smile -- it's kind of a rictus, a tic or something.

"The other guy has all the experience, and that's why I'm running," he adds, dusting off a gem from Ronald Reagan's campaign to become the governor of California. "I'm smart, and I'm not a politician, and I'm humble. I'm all these things. But really if you just know that I'm smart and not a politician, that's all you need to know."

But real politicians love him. Real politicians from both sides of the aisle. He counts fellow cigar aficionado Bill Clinton and George and Laura Bush among his friends. "Last time I was with George in Washington about three weeks ago, he told me he'd answer all my questions, help me any way he could, and be my one-man focus group. And I sense more than just humor with that quip, because I don't think he's a big fan of the Perrys." (Friedman also says that other Republican figures, bigwigs he won't name, are likewise not at all taken with Governor Goodhair and have quietly pledged their support.)

The fledgling campaign comes to the Mucky Duck on December 8 when the Governor's Ball Tour arrives in town. Friedman's first solo tour in quite a while, the show will feature music, readings from the four books he's got coming out next year (two mysteries, an Austin travelogue and the essay collection My Willie, Your Bush: Country Stars, Presidents, and other Troublemakers) and perhaps a stump speech or two. All in all, Friedman is promising "Just Kinky and His Balls."

And who knows? You might just spend an intimate evening with a guy destined for greater things. Perry has few, if any, fanatical supporters. The Democrats have no candidates. "If it stays Perry and a lame Democrat, it doesn't look too different from Jesse Ventura's scenario," he says. "People would rather shoot themselves than vote in that election."

And Friedman has gone from thinking of his campaign as a joke to believing he just might win. "At first, I was saying this was gonna be fun and we were gonna make people think, but then I saw Gary Coleman on TV and he said he was just gonna have some fun and make people think."

And now he thinks he can do more than that. "As long as Lance Armstrong, Willie Nelson and Nolan Ryan stay out of the race, I truly believe you're speaking to the next governor of Texas." With a supporting cast that includes Pat Green and Willie Nelson, George Bush and Molly Ivins, Billy Joe Shaver and actors who either have or will have portrayed Gus McCrae and Davy Crockett behind him, he just might be right.

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