HOUSTON For Farouk Shami, it s a story that starts with $71. That s how much the native Palestinian said he had in his pocket the day he arrived in America.
Four decades later, Shami is a hair dresser-turned-hair products multi-millionaire with a new factory in North Houston and a $4 million home in The Woodlands.
He s spending millions of his own money in his first ever run for political office.
I am with the grass roots. I am not with the machine, Shami said. I am gonna be the winner. I am sure of that, sir.
Shami has promised to accept only $1 a year of the governor s salary and to resign if he doesn t create 100,000 jobs in his first two years.
But his campaign has had problems.
He fired his first campaign team after just 10 days on the job. Earlier this month, a second set of campaign staffers resigned.
And a comment he made during a debate with former Houston Mayor Bill White ruffled a few feathers.
I don t find, you know, many white people really willing to work, you know, unfortunately, Shami said.
Asked about his appeal to minority voters, he talked about the 80 percent of his factory employees who are Hispanic.
The white people, they come to work in the factory they either want to be supervisors or they want to be paid more than the average person and unfortunately they exit, Shami said.
He said he has no plans to exit the governor s race, even though he s trailing in the polls.
And if a man with an unusual name and Muslim heritage can take a rags to riches story to the White House, Shami says a Palestinian hairdresser can make it to Austin.