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Kinky Friedman to Run for Ag Commissioner as a Democrat

Singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist and former independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman will seek the Democratic nomination to be the state's next agriculture commissioner.


Singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist and former independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman will run for the Democratic nomination to be the state's next agriculture commissioner.

A formal announcement is expected on Monday. 

This will not be Friedman's first bid for statewide office. In addition to running for governor as an independent in 2006, he ran unsuccessfully for agriculture commissioner in the Democratic primary in 2010. He expects this cycle to be different, in part because of the excitement surrounding state Sen. Wendy Davis at the top of the Democratic ticket.

"The better Wendy does, the better we will do," he said. "And we will also be able to bring a lot of independent voters and people who have never voted before." 

Though no Democrat has won statewide office in nearly two decades, Friedman predicted that this cycle could be "very winnable" — if the party can attract nontraditional voters.

Friedman, who describes himself as "an old time Harry Truman Democrat," had been mulling a gubernatorial bid. He previously expressed interest in promoting the legalization of marijuana and casino gambling in Texas. On Saturday, he said that the two issues would remain a part of his platform as a candidate for ag commissioner, especially the idea that the state should "legalize, cultivate, tax and regulate marijuana."

"It could be an economic engine for the state, enabling us to do whatever we want to do," he said.

Friedman acknowledged that he might be ahead of the times when it comes to the issue — he noted that he spoke publicly in favor of gay marriage in 2006 — but expects that legalization of marijuana is inevitable in Texas. "In a year or two," he said, "the Poteet Strawberry Festival may be called something else."

Friedman acknowledged that he is not currently an expert on major issues such as water policy, nor is he much of a bureaucrat. But like Jim Hightower, the state's last Democratic agriculture commissioner, he said he hoped to expand the scope of the state's Department of Agriculture to bring attention to issues he feels are important. "I would like to do something for rural Texas," he said, adding that he also hoped to reach out to people who currently felt left out of politics.

Friedman expressed support for Gov. Rick Perry's presidential bid in 2011. As for why he is running as a Democrat this time, he said: "I've always been a Democrat. The only time I wasn't was in 2006." 

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/10/12/kinky-friedman-ag-commissioner-democrat/.

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