updated 10/5/2006 9:28:28 AM ET 2006-10-05T13:28:28

Gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman got big applause from University of Texas students Wednesday with a call to decriminalize marijuana, but his plan to step up the National Guard presence on the border seemed to get lukewarm support.

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His stand in favor of abortion rights met with enthusiasm; his remarks on the role Hurricane Katrina evacuees have played in Houston crime met mostly with quiet.

Unlike last week, when Friedman greeted cheering and standing-room-only crowds on some Texas college campuses, his visit to his alma mater wasn't an overly friendly affair, and there were plenty of empty chairs among the audience of about 350 students.

"I seemed to have whipped the crowd into a coma pretty effectively," he said at one point.

Friedman, an independent candidate who's also a mystery writer and comedian, took some jabs at Republican Gov. Rick Perry. Independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Democrat Chris Bell and Libertarian James Werner also are running for governor.

Links crime, Katrina evacuees
After receiving hearty applause for saying he wants to decriminalize marijuana and put more money into drug treatment and education, Friedman spoke of singer and supporter Willie Nelson's latest brush with the law over marijuana possession.

"You may know that Willie Nelson was popped recently in Louisiana. That deal worked out well. We take in all their criminals and they pop Willie Nelson," Friedman said.

He made further references to hurricane evacuees from Louisiana, bringing up the criticism he got last month for calling some evacuees "crackheads and thugs." Friedman said he knows many evacuees don't fall into that category.

"I mean, I'm smarter than that. There's a quarter of a million people down there who are just trying to get by, who got wiped out. But there's a small group of people among them that have caused 20 percent of the murder rate in Houston," Friedman said.

2006 key racesHe said he wants to allocate $100 million for Houston law enforcement to put 1,000 more police officers on the streets.

One woman in the audience challenged him on his crime rate figures and asked whether evacuees themselves have been victims of crime. Friedman defended his statements. He also noted that a hurricane evacuee has lived with him for months.

Stronger border security
Friedman told the crowd of his proposals to send 10,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border and to give foreign workers a "taxpayer ID card" showing they are eligible for employment in the state.

Friedman said he supports capital punishment — because he contends "there are people who need to die" — but he said he wants to reform the way the death penalty is administered because it's handed out disproportionately to poor people of all races.

On college issues, Friedman said he's for re-regulating tuition, for naming students to university boards of regents and against the top 10 percent rule that allows students admission to a university if they are in the top tier of their high school class.

Asked about his stance on abortion, Friedman said he agrees with Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York that abortion should be "very, very rare." He won cheers when he added, "And I do not think a body, a committee, of men should decide what a woman does with her body."

Small anti-Friedman demonstration
Some students held a small demonstration outside the building where Friedman spoke, with signs proclaiming "Kinky is not liberal" and "Bell is better."

It's difficult to say which candidate most UT students prefer, said Emma Vernon, events chair for the University Democrats, which organized the protest.

"A lot of students are really undecided and not necessarily educated about the issues," Vernon said.

Friedman's campaign manager, Dean Barkley, urged students to register to vote by Tuesday's deadline so they can cast a ballot in the Nov. 7 election.

"You can't say there's no choices this time. You've got five choices," Barkley said.

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