It is Crazy Time in Texas (again.) Of course, I am referring to primary season in general, and our gubernatorial election in particular. Under the Texas Constitution, we have one of the weakest, least powerful and most ceremonial of governorships in the nation (a fact that should have received more play back in the late summer and early fall of 2000.) But you would never know it from the intensity in which the office is being pursued.
Incumbent Governor Rick Perry and incumbent senior Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison are locked in a fierce battle to the bottom, each claiming to be more reactionary-than-thou. How low can they go? Apparently, pretty low, as seen here. The good news is that this happens only once every four years. The bad news is that one of these candidates will be elected governor.
Despite Hutchison's high approval ratings, it is Governor Rick's race to lose. From an historical perspective, it is more embarrassing than anything, that perhaps the most inconsequential governor in Texas history is poised to become the longest-serving occupant of that office. The kicker in the equation, however, is a third Republican candidate, Debra Medina. She has no chance of actually winning the primary. But, as the current darling on the Tea-bagger circuit, she could seriously cut into Perry's secessionist/black helicopter constituency. Conceivably, this could swing the primary Hutchison's way, or force a run-off.
While the GOP primary is where the real action is, the Democrats are feeling their oats this year as well. My candidate, Kinky Friedman, opted out of the race a few weeks back, choosing instead to run for Agriculture Commissioner. His quixotic 2006 campaign gave birth to the two best campaign slogans ever: Kinky Friedman: Why the Hell, Not? and How Hard Can it Be? The wife, son and I visited with him at a book-signing in early December, while he was still mulling-over which race to enter (picture of son and Friedman at left.) His bumper stickers already reflected that indecision--they simply read Kinky. [It is an article of faith with me not to plaster bumper-stickers on my vehicle. I may have to make an exception with this one.]
Of course the big-name in the Democratic primary is former Houston mayor Bill White. He has a solid record of achievement in office--a thoughtful, articulate, well-spoken, squeaky-clean policy wonk, who has never resorted to demagoguery. This means, of course, that he has no chance of ever being Governor of Texas.
The big money in the Democratic primary, however, is with this guy, gazillionaire Farouk Shami, a native of Palestine. He arrived in the U.S. in 1965, and in short order made a fortune in women's hair-care products. As would be expected here in Texas, there are "concerns" about his religious affiliation. A campaign aide told the Austin American-Statesman that he was a Quaker, though his family insists Shami is a Muslim, "though not especially devout."
I understand their confusion. I get Quakers and Muslims confused all the time.
Shami maintains that "he felt a religious tug to run for office, though it's hard to put a label on his faith," and that he was "not a member of any specific religious tradition." He prays and meditates every morning and has a "strong personal relationship with God." A spokeswoman explains that while "he doesn't regularly attend services," that he is a "spiritual person." The article can be found, here.
Shami may be the sleeper in the race, for this immigrant seems to be the most quintessentially 21st-century American of any of the candidates. Think about it.
He has a name like Farouk Shami, but claims "no specific religious tradition."
He prays and meditates every morning, but is not "especially devout."
He has a "strong personal relationship with God," but "doesn't regularly attend services."
Shami is a "spiritual person," but it is "hard to put a label on his faith."
And God talks to him, just like He does to Sarah Palin, though in an Islamo-Quakerish sort of way.
The fact that this year's race is not particularly out-of-the-ordinary for Texas may give some insight into my occasional need to get away.