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Nov. 4, 2006, 5:44PM
Friedman looks to take political luck from Luck

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SPICEWOOD Kinky Friedman began the final campaign weekend just outside Austin at Willie Nelson's Luck Ranch, owned by his longtime buddy and fellow Texas entertainer, looking for some good luck late in his long-shot independent gubernatorial effort.

"I like luck and I need luck and I want luck," Friedman said today, standing next to Nelson outside a corral where a half-dozen horses were grazing and running behind them. "Being in luck is always a wonderful experience."

"If you're not here, you're out of Luck," Nelson said.

The horses, from Oklahoma, were among 11 recently adopted by Nelson and saved from slaughter with their meat intended for shipment overseas. Nelson and Friedman said the horses likely would be slaughtered at a plant in Kaufman, near Dallas, and used the campaign stop to push for congressional passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

The act has been passed by the House and is under consideration by the Senate.

Friedman said if he's elected governor Tuesday, the first two things he'd do is reopen two Indian casinos in the state and close two horse slaughter plants rather than wait for congressional approval. The other plant is in Fort Worth.

"I just don't think we can rely on the feds for anything," he said. "It's been 153 years, and they haven't helped us yet. I think the governor could probably do it, with the people of Texas and Willie."

Horse meat is not marketed as table fare in the United States, but the slaughter plants process hundreds of horses each week. Horse meat is considered a delicacy in Europe, Japan and other places. The legislation doesn't directly prohibit horse slaughter but would effectively halt such operations by banning the transport and sale of horses for human consumption.

"When I grew up, I didn't want to eat my horse," Nelson said. "I didn't know people ate their horses."

"All this horse meat is going to France. This is ridiculous," Friedman said, saying the industry "has no business being in Texas."

Friedman disputed polls that show him lagging well behind Republican Gov. Rick Perry, Democratic challenger Chris Bell and fellow independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who was elected comptroller as a Republican.

"We're hearing everybody is voting for us and that none of the polls reflect this," Friedman said. "And that's because the polls are all doing the 'likely voter' thing."

Friedman's strategy has been to appeal to nontraditional voters, particularly those who haven't voted in previous elections and those who stayed away from the 2002 race, where only 29 percent of registered Texans voted.

Secretary of State Roger Williams predicted the turnout in Tuesday's election will be 36 percent, or 4.68 million of the state's registered voters. That's up by about 130,000 voters compared with the 2002 governor's election.

"I would have liked it to be more than 40 percent," Dean Barkley, Friedman's campaign manager, said Saturday.

At a rally in San Antonio, where more than 100 supporters were crammed into a beer and hamburger joint, Friedman disputed his opponents' arguments that a vote for him was a vote wasted and accused them of "two-party arrogance."

"They're nervous right now," he said. "We're up against a lot of money. We're hanging in there like a hair in a biscuit. If you vote your hearts and dreams, you can't waste your vote. There's no way."

He made his usual campaign pitch advocating decriminalization of marijuana.

"One stupid mistake can ruin your future," he said of those convicted of marijuana possession.

He also said he thought it would be a good idea to lower the state's drinking age to 18.

"I think it ought to be OK to have a beer before you go to Iraq," he said.