AUSTIN — Austin author-entertainer Kinky Friedman dropped out of the Democratic governor's race Monday to run for agriculture commissioner and said he tried to persuade Houston businessman Farouk Shami to also switch campaigns to clear the field for outgoing Houston Mayor Bill White.
With Friedman out of the picture, the Democratic governor's race tightens into basically a two-way contest, with White heavily favored over Shami, a wealthy hair-care magnate who plans to spend at least $10 million on the campaign.
A third remaining candidate, Fort Worth educator Felix Alvarado, said Monday that he plans to stay in the race.
Friedman's political shift also opens up a potentially contentious primary battle between him and Whitehouse rancher Hank Gilbert in the down-ballot race for agriculture commissioner. Gilbert, another drop-out gubernatorial candidate, called Friedman’s new candidacy "another example of self-promotion" by the widely-known entertainer.
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Friedman, who met with both White and Shami over the weekend, said he unsuccessfully urged Shami to withdraw from the governor's race and run for another office, such as lieutenant governor, "so they won’t be against each other."
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