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Kinky Friedman’s Campaign Tried to Get a Primary Opponent to Leave the Race by Offering to Introduce Him to Willie Nelson

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Were you aware that Kinky Friedman had once again entered the political arena as a candidate for statewide office? Don’t feel bad if not—there are, ahem, perhaps more compelling candidates on the trail this primary season than the author/songwriter/perennial candidate whose last foray into Texas politics involved a failure to receive the Democratic nomination for Agricultural Commissioner in 2010. Unlike Wendy Davis, Friedman hasn’t been in the news as the subject of an ongoing debate about his integrity (even noted political observers like Pat Sajak have waded into the Davis debate). Nor have his opponents created a bizarre attack website styled after Buzzfeed to impugn his record, as did Dewhurst’s opponents. Sadly, the fact that Kinky Friedman is attempting once more to secure the Texas Democratic Party’s nomination for Agricultural Commissioner just isn’t that interesting. Particularly in a primary season that features characters as colorful as, say, Steve Stockman.

Kinky Friedman seeking statewide office has, let’s face it, become a dog-bites-man story. And perhaps distressed by that fact the self-proclaimed Jewish Cowboy’s campaign actually managed to make a bit of news this week: Specifically, Friedman dumped his campaign manager, Cody Garrett, and replaced him with consultant Rania Batrice. Why? Because Garrett, apparently without Friedman’s knowledge or approval, nearly got the author involved in the Kinky Friedman-est scandal imaginable. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The Kinky Friedman campaign, looking for a fast lane into the general election, thought offering a primary rival a meeting with Willie Nelson might get them on the road again.

The campaign discussed arranging a meeting between Nelson and challenger Jimmie Ray Hogan to entice him out of the Democratic primary for agriculture commissioner, according to emails obtained by The Dallas Morning News. But the plan went up in smoke before the offer could be presented to Hogan.

“I agree on Hogan, he just wants to meet Willie. Not sure we can get him out of the race but we can try,” Cody Garrett, Friedman’s campaign director at the time, wrote to two fellow campaign workers. “I’ll call Hogan and pretend to be gingerly and promise him the universe, but in the end we all need to take a vote on this and decide which way we should go.”

In another message, Friedman spokesman Cleve Hattersley wrote: “Maybe we really can get Mr. Hogan out by arranging a meeting with Willie. How about you give ole Jim a cordial call, see how he’s doing?”

As far as political scandals go, there’s a lot to enjoy about this one. First, it’s fascinating to see that there actually is such a thing as a potential political scandal involving Kinky Friedman, whose persona is built largely on not giving a shit about that sort of thing. It makes sense, however, that if there’s one thing he’d be concerned about, it’d be the notion that he’s using his relative fame and his entertainment connections to grease the wheels of his political career. Second, it’s funny to imagine that Hogan—who seems like a sincere, if seemingly-unelectable candidate, given that he has yet to raise a dime in funding in a race for an office that no Democrat has come within single digits of winning in at least two decades—might have legitimately abandoned his aspirations in exchange for the opportunity to shake Willie Nelson’s hand. 

Nothing indicates that Nelson had any idea that his name was possibly being dangled in front of a candidate in the hope that he’d bail out of the race, and Friedman’s campaign likewise denies that the Agricultural Commissioner hopeful knew anything about Garrett’s scheme. Still, in a campaign season that’s seen the top-of-ticket races attract most of the weirdness, it’s reassuring to see that Kinky Friedman’s campaign can still top them when it comes to inciting a goofy scandal. 

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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  • James Wright

    I thought it was wonderful that this article included Cleve Hattersley and the phrase , ” grease the wheels ” of his political career . James Wright South Austin