ELECTIONS '06AUSTIN - The school administrators lined up to get their pictures taken with Kinky Friedman. They warmly welcomed Chris Bell. But after two hours of speeches, issues, questions and quips, many said it was Carole Keeton Strayhorn who impressed them the most.

"She's got the financial background. She was a teacher herself. And she's got the future of our students right up there as a top priority," said Nina McChesney, a human resources manager at the Schertz-Cibolo school district.

It wasn't really Gov. Rick Perry's crowd, and he was the only candidate for governor who did not take a turn addressing the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators on Friday morning. But his ears must have been burning.

For the most part, Democrat Bell and independents Strayhorn and Friedman agreed on higher teacher salaries, less emphasis on TAKS and more money for public education.

"How did we wind up in first place in the number of dropouts, teen pregnancies, the number of kids without health insurance? On issue after issue - education, health care, stem cell research - Rick Perry is a miserable failure, and we're falling further and further behind."

"What's our governor been working on? Banning gay marriage. For 4 ½ years he's been working on that one. And he's done it. And it's really impacted our lives, hasn't it?"

"Rick Perry ought to be right here today debating these issues. ... He promised in his own words a bloody, brutal campaign. Well I say, bring it on."

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