Houston hair executive Farouk Shami says his focus is stimulating economy.
By Corrie MacLaggan, American Statesman
Houston hair care executive Farouk Shami said Tuesday that heâ€™s definitely running for governor and that heâ€™ll put in $10 million for the Democratic primary alone. â€œI am in,â€ said Shami, 66, a political novice whose company sells CHI hair-straightening irons and BioSilk hair products. â€œI am 100 percent sure I will be the next governor of Texas.â€
Democrat Farouk Shami says heâ€™ll put in $10 million.
For Capitol watchers who werenâ€™t paying close attention to Shamiâ€™s declarations in recent months that he was thinking of running, his promise of $10 million of his own money might make them listen.
â€œNobody else can begin to say that,â€ said Chuck Herring, president of the Central Texas Democratic Forum, which hosted Shami at a lunch meeting Tuesday.
As of July, the leading fundraiser in the Democratic primary for governor, former U.S. Ambassador Tom Schieffer, had $454,000 on hand. In the GOP race, Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison had $9.3 million and $12.5 million, respectively.
Shami, a native of Palestine who arrived in the United States in 1965 and likes to say heâ€™s â€œliving the American dream,â€ said heâ€™s planning a formal campaign announcement Nov. 19 at CHI USA in Houston.
Shami, founder and chairman of Farouk Systems Inc., said heâ€™s not looking for fame or money and that heâ€™d accept a salary of $1 as governor. (Gov. Rick Perry earns $150,000 a year and accepts about $115,000 of that, a spokeswoman said.)
â€œThe people of Texas are really tired of career politicians who talk and work for special interest groups,â€ Shami said.
Shami, who recently announced that his company is bringing 1,200 manufacturing jobs from South Korea and China to Texas, said his campaignâ€™s top priority is stimulating the economy, particularly with green jobs. He said that, as governor, he would create about 150,000 jobs by opening factories that would hire Texans to produce solar panels.
Shami â€œhas a sincerity and a genuineness that are very attractive,â€ Herring said. â€œHeâ€™s untrained politically â€” thatâ€™s clear as well.â€
Andy Brown, chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, said an Austin reception for Shami on Monday evening drew people Brown hadnâ€™t seen at party functions, particularly members of Austinâ€™s Arab American community. â€œIf his candidacy brings new communities to the active Democratic party structure, I think thatâ€™s a great thing,â€ Brown said.
Feras Mousilli, president of the Austin chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was also at the reception and called Shami refreshing.
â€œObviously, heâ€™s got a tremendous uphill battle ahead of himâ€”he doesnâ€™t have a typical name, the look, the background of most career politicians,â€ Mousilli said. But he said he found it appealing that Shami is not indebted to PACs or lobbyists.
â€œItâ€™s rare to find somebody without those kind of ghosts in their closet.â€