Dean Barkley’s candidacy and what it means in 2008

Dean Barkley still remembers the first room he lived in when he came to the University in 1968 âÄî Frontier Hall , room 301. Now, the University alumnus and Minnesota native finds himself gaining ground in the U.S. Senate race as a member of the party he helped form, the stateâÄôs Independence Party . âÄúMy dad was a Republican, my mother was a Democrat, so go figure why I became an Independent,âÄù he said. Barkley easily won his partyâÄôs primary Sept. 9 , and a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll published Monday finds 13 percent of likely voters support his campaign , with both other candidates registering significant losses in support. Barkley said heâÄôs in the race to win it, even if his opponents âÄîand historic trends âÄî say itâÄôs unlikely. âÄúI think this Senate race is a microcosm of whatâÄôs wrong with Washington,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs nothing but negative talking fish and bowling, talking about nothing in particular,âÄù he said, referencing campaign commercials from DFL Senate nominee Al Franken and incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman . Minnesota Roots Barkley, originally from Annandale , Minn., attended the University from 1968 to 1976 , earned an undergraduate degree and attended law school. He originally was a Democratic activist, supporting George McGovern in the 1972 presidential election . Barkley left the party in the early 1980s before helping form the Independence Party of Minnesota in 1992. Barkley ran for Congress three times in the 1990s before persuading Jesse Ventura to run for governor. When Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash in 2002, Gov. Ventura appointed Barkley to fill his Senate seat. âÄúI thought I did very well,âÄù Barkley said of his time in Congress. âÄúIt doesnâÄôt have to be a gridlock food fight.âÄù Third in the horse race Now, Barkley finds his support growing in one of the fiercest Senate races in the country. Barkley said heâÄôs the only candidate that can deliver change in the Senate, focusing on issues such as ending the Iraq War, cutting government spending and taking on special interests. âÄúIf I thought Coleman or Franken would do anything to change the way Washington operates, I wouldnâÄôt be running,âÄù he said. Colleen Murray , spokeswoman for the Franken campaign, said BarkleyâÄôs and FrankenâÄôs poll numbers show a growing consensus for change in Minnesota . But itâÄôs Franken who can deliver it, she said. âÄúAl Franken is going to reach out to every voter in the state to talk about his plans to change Washington and fight for the middle class,âÄù she said. âÄúWeâÄôre going to try to win every single vote from every single political affiliation.âÄù Luke Friedrich , spokesman for the Coleman campaign, said BarkleyâÄôs candidacy poses more of a threat to the Franken campaign than it does to Coleman. âÄúBarkleyâÄôs candidacy means Al Franken is now in third place when it comes to actual service on behalf of Minnesotans,âÄù he said in an e-mail. âÄúHe still has major problems and Dean BarkleyâÄôs candidacy will only hurt Franken further.âÄù Lawrence Jacobs , director of the UniversityâÄôs Center for the Study of Politics and Governance , said BarkleyâÄôs candidacy is hurting both Coleman and Franken. âÄúThatâÄôs a bit different than what you might expect,âÄù he said. Still, his chances of winning are âÄúremote,âÄù Jacobs said. In the Minnesota poll, Barkley had a 20 percent favorable rating, well below that of either Coleman or Franken. Those who said they had not heard of Barkley or who had no opinion numbered 61 percent, far greater than the other candidates. An August poll from the UniversityâÄôs Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs found 77 percent of likely voters would consider voting for a third-party candidate in the presidential election, a figure Barkley said bodes well for his campaign. The same poll found 61 percent of people avoid voting for third parties in fear of wasting their vote. âÄúThe third-party candidates are allergic to the argument and historic pattern that they rarely win,âÄù Jacobs said. âÄúThey tend to play the spoiler role.âÄù Barkley is not so convinced. âÄúHow do you steal votes?âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs not like anyone owns any frickinâÄô votes. You own your own vote. Votes are earned, theyâÄôre not stolen.âÄù Barkley said he wants to get to 20 percent in the polls by the end of the month. His goal is to raise at least $300,000 for the race. Barkley added that even a small band of independents can have an impact on Congress. âÄúItâÄôs an eternal food fight that wonâÄôt end,âÄù he said, âÄúWeâÄôve got to do it a different way.âÄù