LOCK UP YOUR CHILDREN AND SMALL ANIMALS. KINKY FRIEDMAN IS ON THE WAY.

I talked to the writer-turned-candidate this morning, who was cruising north on I-35 with Little Jewford behind the wheel and a New Yorker writer in the back seat. Kinky is holding a couple of fundraisers in Dallas and Fort Worth today and tomorrow (details here). Click below to read a roughly edited transcript of our conversation.

(Full disclosure: Kinky and I are friends, and I was his editor for what seemed like a lot longer than two years at Texas Monthly. In fact, we were so close, he once wrote a piece comparing me with Charles Whitman. The last line was, “Jesus, I sure hope Brian likes this column.”)

ME: Let’s get this out of the way: Are you serious about this campaign, or are you just wanting to sell some books?

KINKY: No, this is serious, and I think we’ve got a shot. As Willie Nelson says, “Fortunately, we are not in control.”

ME: But your slogan is “Why the hell not?” That makes you a serious candidate?

KINKY: Well, that’s one slogan, yeah. Another is “No teacher left behind.”

ME: C’mon, tell me why you’re doing this.

KINKY: I’m running because I’ve achieved many of my own dreams and I want to see that other people–especially young Texans–have a chance to achieve theirs.

ME: What does that mean?

KINKY: It means I will be appointing young people, when I’m governor, to run this state. And it means that I won’t be making any political appointments because I don’t have any political contacts. For example, in the field of education, where we’re now 49th and in a race to the bottom against Mississippi–and we’re winning–I would only appoint people with teaching certificates and classroom time. No political cronies. And I would get rid of teaching to the test. We will not have teaching to the test.

ME: Okay, so is that it? For example, the biggest issue in the Lege is school finance. How do you feel about that?

KINKY: Anytime you throw money and technology at a problem, you’ll never solve it. You can’t ignore the human component. I will look at things. For instance, the lottery, which all went into some lobbyist’s pocket apparently. I will look at legalizing casino gambling. But even if the current administration had all the money in the world, it would still be spending it on all the wrong things.

The way to help education is to find that teacher who changed all of our lives, that person we all know, symbolically speaking. Where is that person now? Probably at an underresourced school somplace. I’d bring that person to Austin, or I’d bring Austin to that person, and we would listen and learn from that person. In other words, money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.

ME: You have been invited to both the Clinton White House and the Bush White House. Are you asking those fine gentleman for advice?

KINKY: Yes, I’ve already asked Bill, and he says that if I keep writing, he’ll come down and help us.

ME: And Bill Hillsman and Dean Barkley have signed on to your campaign. That gives you a certain measure of credibility—-

KINKY: You know, before you called, Brian, I was talking to some friends about the campaign–I’ll get to your question in a minute–but we were talking about this whole campaign, and one of the ironies is that the issues we’re trying to evoke are far more serious than what the Republicans or Democrats are trying to do.

And you’re asking if I’m serious or trying to sell more books–that’s fine. But these people are trying to monopolize democracy. They want to keep turn-out low, like it was last time with 29 percent of eligible voters. In the Jesse Ventura race you spoke of, 61 percent of eligible voters voted. So in other words, 71 percent of eligible voters last time, even after a $100 million was spent, chose not to vote for plastic or paper. The majority of Texans really are true independents. This campaign is serious, and it has the values of Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Moses, and lots of others you can name. These are people whose values have descended to us. This is a spiritual campaign.

And it’s all about getting rid of the system as it is. It’s a rotten, corrupt system. And when all the voters turn out in November ’06, do you think the Democrats and Republicans are going to be happy? No, I can tell you right now that they’re going to say, “Where the hell did all of these people come from.” And that’s why we have the f***ing petition drive, Brian. That’s why we need 50,000 signatures from people who didn’t vote in either primary. And it’s designed to do one thing and one thing alone: keep independent voices of the ballot. And it’s done it successfully since 1859, when Sam Houston was governor. That’s a long time between dreams, brother. If you think that’s funny, that’s funny. If you think Kinky is selling books, he’s selling books.

ME: But you understand why people think that? That’s going to be the first question they ask.

KINKY: I know, and that’s my answer to that question. I’m not running against Rick Perry. He’s a non-entity. I’m running against the entire system. And people who think this is funny, f*** ’em and feed ’em Fruit Loops. It is funny. But those people are moronic. They’re just like the people who killed Jesus Christ and said, “Isn’t this a good thing?” I’m an honest guy, I’m not a politician, I’m a pilgrim to politics, and I want to appoint good people to handle these problems.

ME: And voters who have been turned off from politics are your key?

KINKY: The new voters, the non-voters, the lapsed voters. I’m disgusted with this system. It’s not democracy. I’m going to clean out these political stables, and I want Texans to help me do it. Let’s get together and make that Lone Star shine again.

ME: Was there a certain moment that made you decide to do this?

KINKY: I don’t know. I don’t know. There must have been a nail in my head.

But I’m for common sense, spirituality, and a little bit of truth. I don’t think that would hurt. There’s problems all over that I can see. We’re 49th in education, and we’re 1st in executions. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?”

ME: Okay, then. Well, good luck with your fundraisers and the campaign.

KINKY: May the God of your choice bless you, brother. Oh, and let’s try to get Billy Joe Shaver’s line in there: “If you don’t love Jesus, go to hell.” That’s kind of our watchword for the campaign.

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