Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Still Waiting for A Real Independent Candidate (Or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof)

Texas isn’t big enough for two independent gubernatorial candidates. It’s probably not big enough for one, thanks to the Repubocrat near-monopoly on ballot access.

The decision by Carole Keeton Strayhorn, she of many surnames and sundry political affiliations, to run as an independent somewhat complicates the prospect that either she or Kinky Friedman will be on the ballot this November against Rick Perry and Chris Bell, the Democrats’ likely sacrificial stiff. Each must obtain signatures of 45,000 or so voters who did not participate in either party primary, and those non-affiliated voters will be limited to signing a ballot petition for just one prospective candidate (can’t have their Kinky and Carole Keeton, too).

Not that Strayhorn and Friedman have overlapping constituencies, or fan bases, as we should properly call them. We surmise that Friedman’s is composed primarily of people who, if they bothered to vote, did or would do so in the Democratic primary but don’t feel comfortable in the party or care much about it its paltry offerings. Strayhorn’s base is made up mostly of moderate Republicans … some moderate Republicans … and others in the GOP who’ve had their fill of Perry but won't be able to bring their outlying-suburban selves to vote for Friedman or a Democrat.

At present Friedman’s chances of getting on the ballot seem better than Strayhorn’s, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the comptroller found some excuse to leave the race before she’s embarrassed (we’ll explain why in a later posting---you’ll want to mark that on your calendar).

However: What Strayhorn has going for her is the absolute vacuity of Friedman’s campaign thus far, which leaves a vast expanse of available territory for a smart, supple and truly independent candidate to claim. Somehow we don’t see One Tough Grandma as one to light out for the territory, but who knows what she might be capable of now that she’s freed of the ideological shackles of the Texas GOP. (OK, here’s one from us, gratis, a no-brainer for any insurgent independent: Step right up and propose doing away with our absurd system of “bilingual” education, as they did in California, where a return to English-language immersion famously resulted in a rise in test scores.)

We’ve beat our gums about this before, but, because we like Friedman’s attitude and the idea of his campaign, we’ll say it again: He’s got to offer more than one liners (and get some new ones while he’s at it) and make some effort to seriously address public policy issues (yeah, government doesn’t have to be a solemn business, but it is a serious business). For instance, somebody’s bound to be pointing out any day now that under No Child Left Behind it will be a tad difficult to do away with the TAKS, as Friedman proposes, and that the state would just have to cook up another measure of accountability to comply with the federal law (contrary to what Friedman is told by these boo-hooing teachers who supposedly come up to him and cry on his shoulder because their pedagogical genius is being stifled by having to “teach to the test,” both the TAKS and the state curriculum on which it is based are sound instruments, although they can always stand refinement, as can the TEA ratings system).

As we’ve also noted here previously, the hurricanes left voters in the mood for competent government without all the noisome ideological trimmings (and Perry is getting good marks in polls for his hurricane performance). A good one-liner won’t get anybody out of town any faster the next time we all hit the freeways at once.

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