updated 6/8/2006 6:25:05 PM ET 2006-06-08T22:25:05

Grandma for governor?

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Independent candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn is asking to be listed on the November ballot as Carole Keeton “Grandma” Strayhorn, saying that is how voters know her since her successful campaign for Texas comptroller in 1998, when she ran advertisements calling herself “One Tough Grandma.”

“Everywhere we go — speeches in Dallas or Houston, small gatherings in Tyler or Amarillo — people will come up and refer to her as Grandma,” said campaign spokesman Mark Sanders.

Strayhorn and musician and wiseacre Richard “Kinky” Friedman, another independent trying to oust Republican Gov. Rick Perry, are still awaiting a decision from the Texas Secretary of State on whether they collected enough signatures to get on the ballot. If they make it onto the ballot, then the state must decide how they will be listed.

Friedman has applied to appear as “Kinky Friedman.” But he said Strayhorn should not be allowed to get her way.

State law allows nicknames on the ballot as long as the candidate has been commonly known by the name for at least three years — a legal standard that “Grandma” doesn’t meet, Friedman said.

“She can call herself Carole Cougar Mellencamp if she wants, but when it comes to the ballot she should have to follow the law,” Friedman said. “Hell, I’ve been Kinky for 40 years.”

Nickname or campaign stunt?
A campaign spokesman for Perry — his real name is James Richard Perry, but he is allowed to run as “Rick” — said “Grandma” is merely a campaign slogan.

“Strayhorn’s demand that her political slogan be put on the ballot is completely absurd and reveals a politician fast becoming irrelevant,” said spokesman Robert Black. “Kinky Friedman may tell jokes, but the Strayhorn campaign is teetering on the edge of becoming one.”

A spokesman for the Democratic candidate for governor, Chris Bell, called the move a “high-water mark for absurdity in Texas politics.”

“I don’t think you can really call ‘Grandma’ a nickname,” Jason Stanford said. “I don’t consider ‘Dad’ a nickname when I go home. It’s not something my kids just thought up.”

‘One Tough Grandma’
Strayhorn was elected to her current position of comptroller as Carole Keeton Rylander. She changed her name to Strayhorn when she married Ed Strayhorn in 2003.

Keeton is her maiden name. She has also held office as Carole Keeton McClellan, and passed the surname on to her four sons, including former Bush administration press secretary Scott McClellan and Dr. Mark McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.

“More people know her as ’One Tough Grandma’ than know her as Strayhorn,” Sanders said.

State law stipulates that nicknames can be used only if they are less than 10 letters, have been commonly known for at least three years and do not make a political statement, said Scott Haywood, spokesman for the Texas secretary of state.

The secretary of state will rule on the nicknames after the signature counting process is complete, Haywood said.

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