December 20, 2005
The Kinky strategy

Via Political Wire, here's a pretty good story assessing Kinky Friedman's chances of winning the Governorship by aping the Jesse Ventura strategy from 1998. There are some major differences:

Friedman's campaign, leaning on two Ventura stalwarts, hopes to repeat Ventura's venture next year by selling Friedman as a down-home alternative and driving up voter interest, particularly among young Texans and people who have not voted (or registered to vote) in years.

There's a catch, though. Friedman faces three hurdles that Ventura did not. He has to collect thousands of voter signatures to make the November ballot, he can't count on public dollars to supplement his kitty, and he has to live with the fact that Texas, unlike Minnesota, doesn't allow voters to register at the polls on Election Day — a factor judged pivotal in Ventura's upset victory.

"Differences between Texas and Minnesota are mammoth," said Steven Schier, a political scientist at Minnesota's Carleton College.


Ventura started with an advantage by automatically qualifying for his spot at the top of the ballot because the Reform Party's U.S. Senate nominee, Barkley, won at least 5 percent of the vote in 1996. Texas law requires Friedman to raise more than 45,000 signatures from voters who sit out the party primaries — and signatures must be collected in 60 days or less this spring.

Ventura joined six candidate debates, while Friedman isn't guaranteed any opportunity to pitch and woo alongside major-party nominees.


Another Ventura edge: Minnesota's provision of taxpayer funds to candidates brought his campaign more than $325,000. The public campaign aid, not available to Texas candidates, gave Ventura the ability to borrow funds for critical TV time.

No doubt, Ventura was helped too by the Minneapolis-St. Paul TV market's serving 80 percent of Minnesota. Texas has more than 25 media markets, making statewide media outreach expensive.

By Texas standards, overall campaign spending was slight in Minnesota. Eleven candidates for governor spent less than $11 million total in 1998, compared with the more than $100 million total spent by Perry and Democratic challenger Tony Sanchez in the 2002 Texas governor's race. Ventura spent less than $1 million, with Humphrey and Coleman spending more than $2 million each.

Friedman hopes to raise $1 million before his campaign collects signatures this spring, Barkley said, and then another $6 million to $7 million to run his fall campaign — ambitious goals for any first-time candidate.

Lentz, author of "Electing Jesse Ventura, A Third-Party Success Story," says Ventura's capture of 69 percent of voters who registered on election day proved vital, adding that Ventura wouldn't have edged Coleman without tapping into more than 330,000 first-time voters.

Friedman, in contrast, could be denied late momentum among people who haven't voted in years because Texas law requires voters to register 30 days before any election.

Getting people registered to vote isn't hard, but it is tedious, time-consuming, and labor intensive. In Texas, if you've got a squadron of deputy registrars out there trawling the malls and grocery stores, you've still got to get the registration forms to the appropriate county office. You can either ask the person filling out the form to mail it in, or you can deliver them yourself within five days. This is one reason why I'm skeptical of the whole bring-out-new-voters plan. It takes a lot of effort to get people in a position to be a new voter, and there's plenty of places for the process to fall down on you.

"Kinky's biggest opponent in this race is apathy," Barkley said. "It's apathy versus Friedman. If Friedman beats apathy, he'll win."

I actually think that at this time, Kinky's biggest opponent is Carole Keeton Strayhorn. She's competing in the same disaffected-voter pool as her strategy for upsetting Rick Perry in the GOP primary, and the more successful she is with that, the fewer people who are likely to be receptive to Kinky's message will be available to sign his petition. The good news for Kinky is that if after all this, Strayhorn decides to join him on the independent trail, they at least won't necessarily be fighting for the same petition-signers. If my reading of the relevant statute is correct, signing more than one petition is not grounds for invalidating the signature.

§ 142.009. PETITION TO BE CIRCULATED AFTER PRIMARY. A signature on a candidate's petition is invalid if the signer:
(1) signed the petition on or before general primary election day or, if a runoff primary is held for the office sought by the candidate, on or before runoff primary election day; or
(2) voted in the general or runoff primary election of a political party that made a nomination, at either primary, for the office sought by the candidate.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 211, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1986.

I would not be surpised if either Team Friedman or Team Strayhorn were to coach their signature-gatherers to tell signers that they then can't do this for anyone else. It would be a lie, but as they'd be dealing with people who don't tune in much to politics, it's a lie that will probably be believed.

In another way, Kinky's problem isn't going to be with apathy at all. As The Jeffersonian notes, there's going to be some hot primary races in Bexar County and South Texas. The less apathy there is for races like those, as well as other potentially competitive races like SD7, SD18, HD146, not to mention the statewide contests, the fewer the available signatories. Maybe after he gets on the ballot, Kinky will have to battle apathy, but until and unless he does, I think he's got other things to worry about, and I'm not sure how much control he has over them.

PerryVsWorld also comments on this story, and notes that Strayhorn is still playing it coy about how she'll run. And the Governor has filed his reelection papers, promising a "vigorous" campaign. You know what that means, so make sure your hip waders are in good condition now while there's still time.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 20, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack