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Singer, novelist, detective - and governor?

In Texas, where character is king, a cult figure sets his wit on high office.

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The crowd grows restless as the man they've been waiting to see enters the room and begins to mingle with friends. He's shaking hands and telling jokes and taking far too long for many of these anxious admirers.

You'd think he was a politician or something.

Finally, he emerges, dressed all in black with a cowboy hat to match. His signature Cuban cigar is lit - violating city code - and he waves it around the room without regard.

His friend and former band member, Jeff "Jewford" Shelby, bellows an introduction: "Ladies and gentleman, please welcome the next governor of the great state of Texas: Kinky Friedman!"

The Kinkster acknowledges the wild applause with a wink: "Little Jewford is very hopeful of becoming the first lady." The crowd is already in stitches and the book signing has only just begun.

But it's no joke. Kinky Friedman, country musician, mystery writer, animal lover, and "the oldest living Jew in Texas who doesn't own real estate," is running for governor. Ask him why, and he repeats his campaign slogan: "Why the hell not?"

Fighting the 'wussification' of Texas

This is Texas, after all, where colorful characters are cherished above all else. And Mr. Friedman is one of the state's most colorful. His politically incorrect outlook and irreverent humor has turned him into a Texas icon or, at the very least, a cult figure.

"Kinky is in the tradition of the true Texas character. He's colorful, he's funny, he's larger-than-life, he's always smoking an enormous cigar," says Stephen Hardin, an expert on Texas culture at Victoria College. "We love guys like this."

And while many fans say they will vote for Friedman in 2006, Dr. Hardin admits Kinky is probably better suited to be an ambassador for Texas than its leader.

But if world federation wrestlers and Hollywood superstars can do it, why not a Jewish cowboy?

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