Panelists deconstruct governor’s race

by Coralie Carlson

Anna Dove, a Redwood High School senior, watched intently on Thursday as a panel of 14 campaign and party leaders rehashed the recent gubernatorial election.
As the panelists sparred and jibed, Dove leaned over to her classmate and said, “Hey, this is what we talked about.”
Eighteen students in Dove’s American government class travelled two and a half hours from Redwood Falls, Minn., to the University to attend a roundtable discussion at the Hubert H. Humphrey Center titled “Governor Ventura: Minnesota’s Gubernatorial Election and Its Implications for The Body Politic.”
The Redwood students — along with more than 250 other attendees — saw the political players’ bickering and joking.
“You wouldn’t think people would get personal like that,” said Jennifer Erickson, another senior at Redwood. She said she expected the panel participants to act more mature.
Representatives from the campaigns of Norm Coleman and Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III described themselves as deer, staring helplessly into the headlights of a barrelling semi-trailer truck named Jesse Ventura in the last few days before the election.
Vance Opperman, chair of the Humphrey campaign, explained that voters thought they “may as well elect someone outrageous and stick it in the eye of the establishment.”
Some representatives from Ventura’s campaign didn’t appreciate his characterization of the new governor.
“Jesse Ventura is not and was not a clown candidate,” said Greta Lilleodden Unowsky, a Ventura campaign media adviser. “The view that he won because of this entertainment politics is patently ridiculous.”
The panel also made more civil assessments of the past campaign season. Pollsters from the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and Minnesota Poll, among others, defended their polling data despite the fact that their data showed Humphrey ahead.
They said the polls were a snapshot in time, not a prediction tool. Support for Ventura surged in the last weekend before the election, they said.
The three panel discussions rehashing the campaigns, journalists’ and pollsters’ interpretations of the campaigns and future implications, drew a packed audience at the Humphrey center and many spectators had to watch from overflow rooms.
Interest in November’s election remains strong because citizens are looking for a leader and think Ventura might be an authentic one, said Rick Miller, a 51-year-old communications business owner attending the forum.
“People in Minnesota and in this country right now are desperate for leadership and they’re not getting it,” he said.