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Carole Keeton Strayhorn.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn (formerly McClellan, then Rylander) (born September 13, 1939) is the former Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Elected to the comptroller's post in 1998 as a Republican, Strayhorn ran as an independent candidate for Texas governor against Republican incumbent James Richard "Rick" Perry in 2006. She lost the November general election to Perry and placed third in a six-way race, with 18 percent.

Strayhorn is notable for several "firsts" in Austin and Texasmarker politics. She is the first woman elected as mayor of Austinmarker and the first Austin mayor elected to three consecutive terms. She was the first woman elected to the Texas Railroad Commission and the first woman elected as comptroller. She also was the first woman to serve as president of the Austin school board and as president of the Austin Community College board.

In May of 2009, Strayhorn lost her campaign for Mayor of Austin.


Carole Stewart Keeton was born in Austin, the second child and only daughter of W. Page Keeton and the former Madge Anna Stewart. Her father was the longtime dean of the University of Texas Law Schoolmarker and a renowned expert on tort law. A section of 26th Street near the UT campus was renamed "Dean Keeton Street" in his honor.

Strayhorn's first marriage was to attorney Barr McClellan, whom she divorced in 1978 during her first term as mayor. In 1983, she married Curtis H. (Hill) Rylander; that marriage ended in divorce in 1995. She married high school sweetheart Ed Strayhorn in 2003. Strayhorn told reporters that Ed Strayhorn proposed to her while both were attending the University of Texas, but her parents thought she was too young to get married.

She is the mother of:

Early political career

As Carole McClellan, she served on the board of trustees of the Austin Independent School District (which doubled as the Board of Trustees of Austin Community College) from 1972 to 1977. She served as president of both boards from 1976 to 1977. She was elected mayor of Austin in 1977 and held that post until 1983. In 1983, Governor Mark White appointed Rylander to the State Board of Insurance, where she served until resigning in 1986 to unsuccessfully challenge veteran Democratic Congressman J. J. Pickle of Austin, a longtime friend and political ally of Lyndon B. Johnson.

As Carole Keeton Rylander, she won election to the Texas Railroad Commission in 1994 by beating Democratic incumbent Mary Scott Nabers, an Ann Richards appointee, by almost 300,000 votes. The panel primarily regulates the production of oil and natural gas (but no longer has authority over railroads). She served as commission chairman from November 1995 to January 1997, and from June 1998 to January 1999.


In 1998, Strayhorn entered the open race to succeed outgoing Democratic Comptroller John Sharp of Victoriamarker, who was seeking the lieutenant governorship. Facing off against Democratic political scion Paul Hobby, the son of a former lieutenant governor and grandson of a former governor and lieutenant governor and a cabinet secretary, Strayhorn won by some 20,000 votes out of roughly 3.6 million votes cast.

Reelected in 2002, she led the statewide Republican ticket in terms of raw votes. As Carole Keeton Rylander, she drew more than one million votes more in 2002 than she had four years earlier and outpolled fellow Republican Rick Perry by some 246,000 votes even while Perry was easily dispatching Democrat Tony Sanchez of Laredomarker in the governor's race.

In 2004, Strayhorn revoked the tax exempt status of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Denison, Texasmarker by claiming that the church is not a religion. This move was done because of the policies of the church's parent body, the Unitarian Universalist Association, which has no single set of religious teachings. The comptroller's office reversed its decision after the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported the incident. This was the only occasion when any state attempted to deny the church's tax exemption.

Gubernatorial campaign

Soon after the 2002 election, Strayhorn began publicly feuding with Governor Perry over what she sees as his inability to provide leadership on issues such as school finance and government spending. She has been extremely vocal about Perry's support for privately-financed large-scale road projects. She calls Perry "a weak leadin', ethics ignorin', pointin' the finger at everyone blamin', special session callin', public school slashin', slush fund spendin', toll road buildin', special interest panderin', rainy day fund raidin', fee increasin', no property tax cuttin', promise breakin', do nothin' phony conservative."

On May 9, 2006, Strayhorn turned in 223,000 voter signatures to the office of Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams. Only 45,540 were required to place her on the November general election ballot. "I told you, Texas," Strayhorn said while standing in front of 101 boxes stuffed with signatures. "We have blown the barn doors off this petition drive." Media reports later confirmed that the boxes were substantially less than half full (for comparison, her opponent, Kinky Friedman put 169,000 signatures in 11 similar boxes). On June 22, 2006, Texas Secretary of State Roger B. Williams declared that only 108,512 signatures on her petition were valid, about 35,000 less than Friedman's count.

Strayhorn tried to have herself listed on the gubernatorial ballot as "Carole Keeton 'Grandma' Strayhorn", claiming that "Grandma" was a common nickname for her, and that independent opponent Kinky Friedman was able to use "Kinky" on the ballot (although he was listed as "Richard 'Kinky' Friedman"). Secretary of State Williams ruled that Strayhorn's "nickname" was a slogan she used during her campaign for state comptroller (One Tough Grandma). Friedman, on the other hand, had used "Kinky" as a professional name on his albums and novels, and had been known by that name for at least 40 years.

During the Texas Governor's debate, Strayhorn suffered image points when she could not name the president-elect of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, during a rapid-answer segment of the debate. In a format similar to a TV game show, the candidates had 15 seconds to answer questions. She stated that the election had been hotly contested.

Partisan affiliations

In her campaigns for school board, college board, and mayor, Strayhorn was not identified by partisan affiliation since those posts are elected on a nonpartisan basis. Strayhorn was a Democrat until the mid-1980s; she served as Democratic nominee Walter Mondale's campaign chair in Travis Countymarker during the 1984 presidential election. Strayhorn switched parties and became a Republican in 1986, when she was the GOP nominee for the U.S. House seat held by J. J. Pickle.

According to the Associated Press, "Strayhorn has insisted that she is [still] a Republican but is going independent to set partisan politics aside and do what's right for Texas." She has attempted to equate her independence to that of the legendary Sam Houston, who resigned as governor in 1861 to protest Texasmarker' decision to join the Confederate States of America (and who was the only independent candidate to win election as governor of Texasmarker).

Strayhorn sometimes draws comparisons to the late Governor Ann Richards, a Democrat, although the two often found themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum.


During her stint as comptroller, when she married Strayhorn and changed her name again, it is reported that instead of ordering all new stationery and discarding the old, she simply crossed out "Rylander" on the existing stationery and replaced it with "Strayhorn", as a means of saving taxpayer funds.

She played the bit role of a Sheriff in the 1980 movie Roadie starring Meat Loaf (credited as "Carole McClellan").


  1. The Austin Chronicle: News: Carole's Lips to God's Ear
  2. The Baptist Standard :: The Newsmagazine of Texas Baptists
  3. Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News
  4. Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Southwest
  • Associated Press, Strayhorn: Call Me Grandma, (June 9, 2006).
  • Robert Dodge, Finding a Healthy Balance: FDA Chief McClellan Aiming for Right Mix of Science, Economics, Dallas Morning News 1A (Feb. 16, 2004).
  • R.G. Ratcliffe, Strayhorn says her politics remain true, Houston Chronicle (Aug. 20, 2006).
  • Amy Smith, She's Her Own Grandma, Austin Chronicle (July 28, 2006).
  • Texas Birth Index 1903-1997
  • Texas Marriage Index, 1966-2002
  • Texas Divorce Index, 1966-2002

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