MANY OF US REMEMBER, in that dim and distant corridor of childhood, a book titled If I Ran the Zoo. What’s that? You don’t remember reading it? Okay. Push pause.

There once was a zoo that some folks liked to call Texas politics. In this zoo were doves and hawks, bulls and bears, crocodiles and two-legged snakes, and lots and lots and lots of sheep. But the ones who ran the zoo were not really animals. They were people dressed up in elephant and donkey suits who’d lined their pockets long ago and now went around lying to everybody and making all the rules. Even as a child, I knew I never wanted to be one of them, a perfunctory, political party hack. This did not stop me, of course, from growing up to be a party animal.

Unless you’ve been living in a double-wide deer blind, you know I’m running for governor in 2006. Well, I’m a rather indecisive person, so I’m not entirely sure I’m running yet. I have to weigh the impact the race may have on my family. You may be thinking, “The Kinkster doesn’t have a family.” But that’s not quite right, folks: Texas is my family. And I intend to give Texas a governor who knows how to ride, shoot straight, and tell the truth, a governor as independent-thinking and as colorful as the state itself.

By running as an independent, I plan to demonstrate that even if the governor doesn’t really do any heavy lifting, he can still do some spiritual lifting. There’s a place above politics that has nothing to do with bureaucracy, where good things can get done by an outsider who is in time and in tune with the music flowing from that old, beautiful instrument: the voice of the people. Unfortunately, where I come from, that instrument is an accordion.

Being independent is what Texas is all about. Here, someone running from the outside may, in fact, have more of a chance than elsewhere of being taken seriously. In Minnesota, few people took Jesse Ventura seriously until, in the wink of an eye, he put them in a reverse figure-four leg lock. His confrontational style, however, did not serve him well, and he lasted only one term. He never figured out that wrestling is real and politics is fixed.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is another story. Even far into his campaign, he was written off by a good part of the electorate. Then something happened to change all that: The people of California sensed that the world was watching. (They were right. We were watching Scott Peterson.) Now they’re talking about running Arnold for president. Many Texans are taking note, thinking that if they can get rid of politicians in California, maybe we can get rid of Californians in Texas.

So how does an independent candidate get taken seriously, particularly one who believes that humor is one of the best ways of getting to the truth? And the truth is, if we don’t watch out, Guam is going to pass us in funding of public education. Beyond its obsession with shaking down lobbyists, the Texas Legislature has proved that it is neither a visionary nor an efficient institution. The Fraternal Order of the Bulimic Moose could probably do a better job. A good spay-and-neuter program may be the answer. As my father always said, “Treat children like adults and adults like children.” But for God’s sake, whether you have to go around them or over them, let’s get something done, even if it means invading Oklahoma so we can move up to number 48 in affordability of health care.

Here is where the spiritual lifting comes in. Though the governor of Texas holds a largely ceremonial position, he must be able to inspire people, especially young people, to become more involved in the welfare of our state. As I drive around in my Yom Kippur Clipper—which sports a bumper sticker that reads “My Governor Is a Jewish Cowboy”—I am constantly impressed by the young people I run into, sometimes literally.

Take the fellow I met recently. He was a grocery clerk in Del Rio, and he seemed quite bright. As I was talking to him, a customer walked up and asked for half a head of lettuce. The clerk said he’d have to check with the manager, and he walked to the back of the store. Unnoticed by the clerk, the customer walked back there too, just in time to hear him say to the manager, “Some a—hole wants to buy half a head of lettuce.” The clerk, suddenly seeing the customer standing next to him, then turned and said, “But this kind gentleman has offered to buy the other half.” Later, the manager, complimenting the clerk on his fast thinking, told him that a large Canadian chain was buying the store and suggested he might climb the ladder quickly. “Everyone in Canada,” responded the clerk, “is either a hooker or a hockey player.”

“Just a minute, young man,” said the manager. “My wife is from Canada.”

“No kiddin’,” said the clerk. “Who’s she play for?”

Young people like this, I believe, can be an inspiration to us all. When I’m governor, many of them will be running the place, and no doubt I’ll be running after many of them. Everyone knows we’re not going to get any action or inspiration from career politicians. They’re so busy holding on to their power they never have time to send the elevator back down.

If my petition drive to get on the ballot in March 2006 is successful, I’ll become the first independent candidate to run for governor since they dragged a heavily monstered Sam Houston out from under the bridge. At the very least, I plan to be a candidate people can vote for rather than against. Speaking of which, I was showing a friend around Austin recently, and he was very impressed with what he saw. “That’s a beautiful statue of Rick Perry you all put up,” he said.

“That is Rick Perry,” I said.