Midterms And Musicians

The midterm election results showed a historic victory for Democrats on November 7th, but it was a mixed bag for campaigning musicians.

The lovably eccentric gubernatorial campaign orchestrated by the former boss of Kinky Friedman & The Texas Jewboys fell far short. Friedman, a songwriter, former columnist for Texas Monthly and Thurber Prize-nominated writer, drew national attention with his politically incorrect run for the Texas statehouse.

He called for the “dewussification” of the Lone Star state and ran with the slogans “Why The Hell Not,” “How Hard Could It Be,” “He Ain’t Kinky, He’s My Governor” and “My Governor Is A Jewish Cowboy.”

His campaign gained momentum but, on election day, Friedman wound up in fourth place amid criticism over remarks some considered racist. Texas will now see four more years of Gov. Rick Perry and his good hair.

Friedman would have been the first independent governor of Texas since Sam Houston in 1859. His publicity did, however, guarantee Friedman years of television appearances on political commentary shows.

“We took on three very polished professional political machines, two of which had unlimited funds, started out as gypsies on a pirate ship and made a very noble campaign of this,” Friedman told cheering supporters at an Austin beer hall during his concession.

Faring better was John Hall, who took on Congresswoman Sue Kelly for the 19th Congressional District of New York. Hall, the former singer of the band Orleans and songwriter of “Still The One” and “Dance With Me,” challenged a longtime incumbent who was swept into office during the 1994 Newt Gingrich revolution.

Hall came from far behind to win, chipping away at his opponent with his criticism of the Iraq war and Kelly’s alleged failure to support disabled veterans, but he was also helped by his minor celebrity status.

Plus, he was the beneficiary of the coveted “Colbert Bump.” Political satirist Stephen Colbert has half-jokingly said candidates who have appeared on his show, “The Colbert Report,” received a bounce in the polls. Colbert is right though: a surprising amount of politicians who appeared on his show did indeed win on November 7th. As for Hall, he harmonized with Colbert on “Dance With Me” during Colbert’s recurring “Better Know A District” segment.

Kelly refused to participate in the segment.

Worse, she is the former chairwoman of the Congressional Page Board and spent the latter part of the election year ducking questions about disgraced Rep. Mark Foley and whether pages had complained to her about Foley’s unwanted advances. Finally, she had a televised outburst during a debate with Hall after a pointed question about the page scandal. She then refused to appear for another debate, leaving Hall to argue an empty chair.