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Friedman, Ventura seek support at Perry's alma mater

MICHAEL GRACZYK / AP | September 28 2006

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Kinky Friedman, seeking support for his independent gubernatorial bid on Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Perry's old turf at Texas A&M University, got an immediate dose of Aggieland tradition.

His ever-present black cowboy hat needed to go, at least temporarily, as he walked into the Texas A&M University Memorial Student Center for a campaign appearance Wednesday evening, accompanied by kindred political spirit Jesse Ventura.

Hats are prohibited on the first floor of the student center in respect for Aggies who have lost their lives in the service of the nation, meaning folks got a rare look at the wiry hair that provides Friedman's nickname.

"Am I going to have to keep my hat off?" Friedman told a surprised student at the door. "Felt weird. They said I could wear it on the second floor."

About 500 people crammed into a second-floor meeting room to hear Friedman and Ventura, the former Minnesota governor whose successful 1998 third-party campaign Friedman is hoping to reprise in Texas.

Ventura, who gained fame initially as a pro wrestler, also removed his Navy SEAL baseball cap, letting his long hair and dreadlocks fall about his shoulders.

As he has during a three-day tour of Texas universities with Ventura, Friedman talked about his desire to put 10,000 National Guard troops on the border to stem the flow of illegal immigration, his opposition to the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, test in public schools and his desire for legalized casino gambling in Texas with proceeds going to education.

In a question-and-answer session, he said he was against imposing a state income tax, against toll roads and wanted to include life experiences as part of the public school curriculum.

A key element of the Friedman election effort, emphasized by Ventura, is getting college students who traditionally have avoided the polls to vote in the Nov. 7 election where Friedman is trying to unseat Perry, a 1972 A&M animal science graduate who served as a junior and senior yell leader at the school. In the unique A&M jargon, cheers are known as yells.

"I don't have anything personal against him whatsoever," Friedman said of Perry. "He's likable, popular. That's how he became a yell leader here."

But he faulted what he said was the governor's lack of leadership, desire to serve the needs of lobbyists instead of Texas residents and interest in only furthering his tenure as a career politician.

"He's inspiring," said Jeff Bouas, 19, an A&M sophomore from Carrollton. "It's nice to hear someone say what we're thinking."

"I think he made a lot of good points and is actually going to get something done," freshman Jessica Googins, 18, said, adding that her vote Nov. 7 will be her first. "It's exciting."

The Texas A&M stop was the last with Friedman for Ventura, who drew enthusiastic crowds since Monday at schools in San Antonio, San Marcos and Houston.

If Friedman wins, "I might just run for president," he said to the A&M crowd and to the cheers earlier in the day to about 400 people at the University of Houston. "If this guy loses, I'll stay in Baja, surfing."

Ventura has a home in Baja California, Mexico.

"If you don't vote, you've got nothing to gripe about," he said in Houston, even invoking his old wrestling persona in his plea.

"Show Jesse 'The Body' a little courage," he growled, referring to his wrestling nickname.

Also running are Democrat Chris Bell, independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Libertarian James Werner.

Friedman said he was trying to "bring some entertainment value to politics and a little truth - if we can."

Friedman drew cheers from students when he talked about tuition rates rising out of control and how he hoped to put more students on the governing boards of universities.

"I'm fed up with the kids being broke and institutions being rich," he said.

 

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