Kinky Friedman Drops Bid for Texas Governor

Musician and author Kinky Friedman will drop his Democratic bid for Texas governor and seek the agriculture commissioner post instead.

"This has never been about me; this has always been about what is best for the people of Texas and the Democratic Party," Friedman said Monday.

Friedman finalized his decision after meeting with Democratic gubernatorial candidates Bill White and Farouk Shami separately over the weekend. Friedman campaign consultant Colin Strother described the meetings with both men as "very, very good", but Friedman is declining to endorse either Democratic candidate at this point. Friedman's visit with White at the mayor's Houston home was the first time the two had met; Friedman and Shami have been personal friends for many years and share a key ally — John McCall, who financed much of Friedman's 2006 gubernatorial run.

"After my visit with Bill my mind was made up. There is a clear alternative for the people of Texas, and today I'm changing courses with a happy heart," Friedman said.

Strother says while Friedman did consider the land commissioner post, he felt the agriculture commissioner job was "the best fit." Friedman spent the past week getting advice from his friend, former Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.

"I've got a pretty detailed plan of action that we'll be rolling out later in the week," Friedman said. "From forming a statewide public defenders' office and setting a goal of at least one animal rescue facility in each county, to restoring our depleted woodlands and promoting a greater role for local producers in school cafeterias, we're going to shake things up and show folks what the office can be if you have someone there who actually cares about the job."

"He's really energetic and excited about it," said Strother. "[He's excited about] the great diversity of things it can do for rural Texas — from economic development, to land and soil conservation... The first thing he wants to do is get an animal rescue facility in every county in Texas. Biofuels and animal rescue were the clinchers."

Friedman says he'll officially file on Tuesday, setting up a contest between him and Hank Gilbert, another Democrat who exited the governor's race after the December 4th entry of Houston Mayor Bill White.

The musical chairs among Democratic candidates for statewide office started after the departure of former U.S. ambassador Tom Schieffer and the entry of White, who's seen as the establishment favorite with money and credentials to lead the ticket. As White announced his bid for governor, Gilbert switched out of the gubernatorial race and Friedman began his campaign's period of re-evaluation, which has culminated with today's decision.

This isn't Friedman's first trip to the statewide campaign rodeo. Friedman captured 12% of the vote in his independent run for governor in 2006. Despite heavy media attention he finished fourth behind Republican Rick Perry, Democrat Chris Bell and Independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Candidates in Texas have until January 4th to file for office.

UPDATE 4:06pm: Friedman's opponent, Hank Gilbert, released a statement:

"Here we have a candidate who is running for office-any office-solely because he wants to promote his books and personal appearances," Gilbert said. "Kinky is no Democrat. If he was, he never would have stayed in the 2006 race running as an independent and denied our party's nominee a real chance at the governor's office," Gilbert continued.

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