Texas Gets Kinky, Just Not With Grandma

Texas voters will be able to choose Kinky Friedman but not Grandma Strayhorn.

Texas voters will get “Kinky,” but they won’t get “Grandma.” The state elections chief on Monday rejected gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s request to be called “Grandma” on the November ballot, but he decided her fellow independent candidate Kinky Friedman could use his nickname as long as it was accompanied by his given name — Richard.

Kinky Friedman Photo Kinky Friedma in Austin, Texas, May 11, 2006. Friedman, who once sang 'They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore,' may include the name by which he is best known on the ballot to choose Texas' next governor in November, the state's top election official said on Monday. REUTERS/Peter Silva “Grandma” is a slogan rather than a recognized nickname and therefore not allowed under the Texas Election Code, Secretary of State Roger Williams decided. Strayhorn promised to sue. In Friedman’s case, “It’s quite apparent that ‘Kinky’ is a name he’s been using for a number of years,” said Scott Haywood, spokesman for the elections agency. Both independents are trying to oust Republican Gov. Rick Perry. Democrat Chris Bell and Libertarian James Werner also are running for governor.

Friedman, a musician and author, got his nickname because of his curly hair and first became known as “Kinky” in 1962 during his freshman year at the University of Texas, his campaign has said. He has released 10 music albums, published 26 books and written numerous articles under the name “Kinky Friedman.”

Strayhorn, the state comptroller since 1999, contends many Texans know her as “Grandma,” and she calls herself “one tough grandma.” Her attorney, Roy Minton, argued that Strayhorn began using the name when she became a grandmother Nov. 12, 1994. The secretary of state said he took several factors into account in Strayhorn’s case. He noted that Strayhorn has never appeared on an election ballot under the name “Grandma” and that her declaration of intent to run as an independent, as well as her voter petitions, listed her as “Carole Keeton Strayhorn.”

The ruling strikes me as reasonable. Clearly, Friedman is better known as “Kinky” than as “Richard.” Indeed, I’m not sure I knew his given name. It would be confusing not to have the name “Kinky” on the ballot for his supporters. Conversely, Strayhorn is just trolling for the moron vote by trying to append “Grandma” to her name. Indeed, we’d soon have candidates using “Honest” and other slogans as “nicknames” if this were allowed.

Of course, if Strayhorn were to legally change her name to “Carole Grandma Strayhorn,” they’d have little recourse but to put it on the ballot. Rather like the boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler, who actually made the “Marvelous” his legal first name.

Friedman said he was happy with the decision. “I like the name ‘Richard Kinky Friedman.’ It evokes a certain sense of nobility that falls somewhere between Richard the Lion-hearted and Richard Nixon,” Friedman said in a statement.

Quite so.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Yup. While I knew that “Kinky” was a nickname, to my mind it is his name. I had no idea his first name was “Richard.”

    OTOH, this is the first time I had seen Strayhorn referred to as “Grandma.”

  2. Strayhorn is right that she has referred to herself and been referred to as “one tough Grandma”, but it is hardly synonymous with her name.

    I remember my wife calling Mr. Friedman trying to get some sign off for his participation in a charity event. She was quite shocked when she got his answering machine saying “This is Kinky ‘big dick’ Friedman and I’m not in right now”.

    I think the “Grandma” label would be somewhat analogous to Mr Friedman wanting to have “big dick” on his ballot line. Besides, for most Richards in Texas, he wouldn’t be considered that tall.