Friday, February 17, 2006

"Anyone who votes in the primary cannot sign a petition for an independent candidate."

Independents: To vote or not to vote


Isadora Vail
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN — With less than two weeks to go before the primary elections, independent gubernatorial hopefuls Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman are preaching two different themes.

Friedman is using the catchy "Save yourself for Kinky" slogan to encourage voters not to vote in the March 7 primary election.

Anyone who votes in the primary cannot sign a petition for an independent candidate.

Strayhorn, however, is encouraging people to vote.

"We are telling voters that if you vote in the primary, you can still vote for (Strayhorn) in November in the general election," said Mark Sanders, spokesman for Strayhorn. "We still have that 9 (million) or 10 million people that can sign our petition."

Bruce Buchanan, government professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said getting signatures is expensive and the difference in the campaigns is probably because of money.

He said that Friedman is using his slogan because it might be less costly and it is an easy way for him to get votes.

Strayhorn had more than $8 million in her campaign war chest at the end of the year. Friedman had raised $1.5 million.

But just getting on the November ballot as an independent is daunting, which may explain why Sam Houston is the last independent to win the governor's race in Texas.

The main obstacle the candidates must overcome to be on that ballot is filing a petition with 45,540 signatures of registered voters, none of which voted in the primary elections or any run-off elections and none of which have signed a petition for another independent.

Friedman and Strayhorn will have from March 8 through May 11 to collect signatures, unless there is a run-off election, which would be held on April 11, leaving one month to collect signatures. "Verifying" the signatures will take up to two months, said spokesman Scott Haywood, for the secretary of state's office.

Friedman campaign spokeswoman Laura Stromberg said these extra two months may cause financial supporters or possible voters to lose their patience. "We are disappointed with the time frame and we are losing valuable time," she said.

Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, said the campaigns might need to get two or three times the minimum number of signatures to make sure they get enough valid names.

In the 2002 governor's race, there were about 12 million registered voters. Only 13.4 percent voted in the primaries, leaving more than 10 million voters eligible to sign petitions for independent candidates. In the general election, 36 percent voted.

The Friedman campaign has also criticized the secretary of state for advertisements encouraging Texans to vote.

Haywood said this advertisement had the sole purpose to inform people that there is new technology that will be used and voters shouldn't be intimidated.

"A secretary of state who didn't encourage voting would be derelict," Jillson said.
Staff Writer Gary Scharrer contributed to this report.

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News: