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But Seriously, Folks

The humorist and musician takes a nip at his Austin campaign headquarters:
The humorist and musician takes a nip at his Austin campaign headquarters: "All politicians speak in one-liners and sound bites. They're just not as funny as mine." (By Thao Nguyen -- Austin American-statesman Via Associated Press)

The campaign is a bizarre, four-way slugfest that has, the Dallas Morning News recently noted, "transformed what probably would have been an easy run for incumbent Rick Perry into a wide-open race."

Some polls show Kinky running second to Perry. Does that mean the Kinkster might actually win ?

"I don't think there's any chance of that," says Jason Stanford, who is Bell's campaign manager.

"He'll come up woefully short," says Mike Baselice, Perry's pollster.

"He won't win," says Evan Smith, editor of the Texas Monthly, "but he'll affect who wins."

Kinky's campaign manager, Dean Barkley, the architect of Jesse Ventura's successful 1998 race for governor of Minnesota, is more optimistic. "If 40 percent of registered voters turn out," Barkley says, "Kinky will win."

Barkley figures Kinky's image as a straight-talking outsider will appeal to angry, alienated folks who seldom vote. Kinky's campaign has raised more than $3.4 million -- more than Bell but far less than Perry or Strayhorn -- while enlisting an army of volunteers who gathered the signatures that put him on the ballot. Now all Kinky has to do is get one more vote than anybody else: The election is winner-take-all, with no runoff.

"Kinky's gonna win," says John McCall, a hair-care products mogul who has donated $1 million to his old friend Kinky's campaign. "I have a business that deals with hairdressers. People talk to their hairdressers. And what I'm hearing is: Kinky's gonna win in a landslide."

Unconventional Wisdom

Kinky squats down to pat his two little pit bulls, Valerie and Penny, then he lets them out into the back yard of his funky little ranch house in Austin.

"We can learn a lot from animals," he says. "How to be loyal. How to be ready for fun. How to get over things quick."

Kinky is one of Texas's most famous animal lovers. He donates the proceeds of his line of salsa -- Kinky Friedman's Private Stock -- to the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, a central Texas facility for abandoned animals that's on land donated by Kinky's late father, Tom. (Laura Bush is on the board of directors.)

"We've saved more animals than Noah," Kinky says. "It's Gandhi-like work, and I'm a Gandhi-like figure. Meaning I don't do any of the real work, I just promote it."

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