Texas Liberal

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In Praise Of Gene Kelly & Outlaw Josey Wales

Two perennial candidates for office in Texas are Gene Kelly and Outlaw Josey Wales.

Mr. Kelly runs statewide and Mr. Wales runs for Mayor of Houston.

In the recently contested Texas primary, Mr. Kelly won 27% in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary against Rick Noriega. Mr. Noriega won the primary and avoided a runoff with 51% of the vote. 

Here is some information about Mr. Kelly from today’s Houston Chronicle.

Kelly is a reclusive retired military judge and lawyer from Universal City, a San Antonio suburb. He traditionally does little more than pay his filing fee, but apparently he wins votes because he has the same name as the late movie star and dancer.

Since 1990, Kelly has run for the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, attorney general and U.S. Senate.

In 2006, he forced Barbara Ann Radnofsky into a runoff in the Democratic U.S. Senate race. She overcame with “the dancer is dead” campaign, but the fact that she was in a runoff is believed to have cost her financial support from national Democratic donors.

Many candidates have an aspect of personal identity that wins them votes.

Did Mr. Noriega win votes because he is Hispanic? ( This no doubt cost him some votes as well.)

Some people voted for Barack Obama because he is black. Hillary Clinton gets some votes for being a woman and she has a famous last name. 

So what? That’s democracy for you. It’s a big spin of the wheel.  

It’s not Gene Kelly’s fault that by simply putting his name on the ballot he wins a quarter of the vote. I say more power to Mr. Kelly.  

If the party that likes to think of itself as the more “enlightened” party has to convince people that the actual “Singing in the Rain” Gene Kelly is not on the ballot–Well, then we have bigger problems than Mr. Kelly’s presence on the ballot. 

Here in Houston, I am a big fan of Outlaw Josey Wales.   

That’s his legal name.

Mr. Wales ran for Mayor of Houston last year. 

In 1999, I voted for Mr. Wales against incumbent Houston Mayor Lee Brown.

Mr. Brown was certain to win the election. I did not think so much of Mr. Brown. 

Once I convinced myself that Mr. Wales was not a right-wing kook, I figured what the hell? 

Two years later when Mr. Brown had a serious Republican challenger, I voted for Mr. Brown.

Here is what I said about Mr. Wales last October

As for Mr. Wales, self-creation and starting fresh are acts fully consistent with Houston and with politics.

He changed his name because he wanted to make some money. Good for him. I hope he made some money. If I thought I could make a lot of money by changing my name to Wyatt Earp, I would likely do so..   

Mr. Wales has had fewer names than former Texas Comptroller and candidate for Governor One Tough Grandma Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn…. 

Bloggers give themselves new names and made-up names all the time…

I don’t care what people choose to call themselves.    

Is Mr. Wales anymore or less stable than our civic Founding Father Sam Houston? Mr. Houston used to walk around Houston dressed as a cross between a frontiersman and an Indian. Sam Houston was, in his way, a serious and talented man.

Is Mr. Wales any more or less serious than the process of how we elect our city officials in Houston with silly six year term limits and terrible turnout? I think Mr. Wales might in fact be somewhat dignified for such a screwed-up process.  

Absurdity is a refuge from the day-to-day pain of life. As long as absurdity does not become detachment, what harm does it do?   

I look forward to seeing Mr. Kelly and Mr. Wales on the ballot many more times.    

March 6, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics, Texas, Texas Political History, Texas Primary '08 | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Socialist & Outlaw Josey Wales—A Few Words Of Consideration For Houston’s Mayoral Contenders

Houston Mayor Bill White will certainly win re-election next week. His two opponents are a man who changed his name legally to Outlaw Josey Wales IV and Socialist Amanda Ulman. 

It’s easy to discount these people, and voters will dispatch them without much thought, yet both merit a few words of consideration

First, please read below about Ms. Ulman and Mr. Wales excerpted from a Houston Chronicle story by Matt Stiles profiling the race for Mayor.

“…… For now, though, White faces meat-packing plant worker Amanda Ulman and contract engineer and professional wrestling promoter Outlaw Josey Wales IV in the Nov. 6 election.

Ulman is running on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party. Her platform includes calls for amnesty for all illegal immigrants, the immediate end to the Iraq war and a massive public works project to give jobs to the unemployed at union wages.

“Workers are a majority of Houston, and we need our own voice. We need someone to stand up and raise demands that are in our own interest,” said Ulman, an Indiana native who was a write-in candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006. “We join in the struggles of working people.”

White’s other opponent, who legally changed his name to Outlaw Josey Wales in 1998 to create a persona for his wrestling events, ran unsuccessfully against former Mayor Lee Brown a year later. He said he wants to pay Houston police officers more and ensure the long-term viability of their pension system.

He wants to make it illegal to drive while holding a cell phone and to require at least four motorists in a car to allow access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes. He also wants to extend rail lines along major freeways from downtown to the city limits.

“You’ve got to get people out of their cars,” he said. “There’s no reason someone in Kingwood, Humble, Katy, (U.S.) 290 north, Clear Lake, anywhere out past the Beltway on Interstate 10 either way, should be driving into work.”

In the case of Ms. Ulman, the Socialist Party did once have a presence in Texas. In the first 20 years of the last century, there were often Socialists running for Congress from Texas. The Socialist candidate for President won 8.3% of the vote in Texas in 1912 and 5.1% in 1916. ( In 1912, Socialist Eugene V. Debs at 8.3% ran only 1.1% behind Republican President William Howard Taft in Texas.)

I’ve long held that voters in big cities are used by the Democratic Party. We give Democrats our votes and it is often difficult to see how our cities are getting any better and how the lives of poor and working class people in cities are getting any better.   

If big city voters had Green Party or Socialist Party options they felt were electorally viable, such alternatives might well be be considered.

For now, Ms. Ulman and her ideas can be dismissed by simply referring to her as a Socialist. It’s not always been that way in Texas and nothing says it will always be that way in the future. 

As for Mr. Wales, self-creation and starting fresh are acts fully consistent with Houston and with politics.

He changed his name because he wanted to make some money. Good for him. I hope he made some money. If I thought I could make a lot of money by changing my name to Wyatt Earp, I would likely do so. I imagine many people would do the same.   

Mr. Wales has had fewer names than former Texas Comptroller and candidate for Governor One Tough Grandma Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn. Every time you turned around she had a new name.

Bloggers give themselves new names and made-up names all the time. Bloggers are a big thing in politics now. That’s at least what I read.

I don’t care what people choose to call themselves.    

Is Mr. Wales anymore or less stable than our civic Founding Father Sam Houston? Mr. Houston used to walk around Houston dressed as a cross between a frontiersman and an Indian. Sam Houston was, in his way, a serious and talented man.

Mr. Wales says he advocates carpooling and people getting off the phone while driving. He wants to increase police pay. That seems like a platform many people might support.

Is Mr. Wales any more or less serious than the process of how we elect our city officials in Houston with silly six year term limits and terrible turnout? I think Mr. Wales might in fact be somewhat dignified for such a screwed-up process.    

In 2010, if Mayor White runs for statewide office, I’ll strongly consider giving him my vote. I want a Democrat as Governor. 

In 2007, my only regret is that I must choose between Ms. Ulman and Mr. Wales. I like them both.

October 31, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment