Ventura turns race into a dead heat

Coralie Carlson

Editors note: This is the third of five stories profiling the nine candidates for governor. Thursday’s story will look at three minor party candidates.

Max Rust
Jesse Ventura said he wants to find out if the American dream is still alive.
In his dream, government has shrunk, taxes have decreased and he wakes up in the governor’s mansion.
If common citizens like Ventura, the Reform Party candidate for governor, can win elections instead of career politicians, then his dream will get a little closer to reality on Nov. 3.
University community members should take note, however, that higher education isn’t a priority in Ventura’s vision of the state’s future.
While his opponents for the governor’s seat, who are both lawyers, milk the cash cow of special interests, political lightweight Ventura, 47, refuses to take money from political action committees.
According to local media surveys, Ventura’s dreams of election stand a chance of coming true. A Star Tribune/KMSP-TV poll, which surveyed about 800 adults across Minnesota in mid-October, found that Ventura holds 21 percent of the vote, only 15 points behind the forerunner. The poll had a 3.5 percent margin of error.
It’s the best showing by a third-party candidate in the state since the Farmer-Labor party melded with the Democrats in 1948. The last viable Reform Party candidate, Dean Barkley, won 7 percent in his Senate race two years ago.
Ventura’s also ablaze at the gubernatorial debates, standing apart from the partisan bickering of Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III. With gruff, short responses sporting minimal substance, Ventura steals the show as his opponents ramble off complex schemes and funding options.
Although he disagrees with Ventura on many issues, Steve Macek, graduate student and member of Students for a New Party, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the radio personality captured 20 percent or more of the vote on election day. Many people are fed up with two-party professional politicians, he said.
Yet pundits and political experts alike denounce hopes for “The Body,” attributing his good tidings to a showbiz personality and quick wit. William Flanigan, political science professor, said he doesn’t anticipate Ventura’s success spilling over into a long-term electoral base for the Reform Party.
But Ventura believes his positions on issues ranging from the decriminalization of illegal drugs to college students paying their own tuition are just what the state needs.

Big plans, few syllables
As a professional wrestler, “The Body” faced brutish men in the ring; today, “the mind” faces tough issues with hard-edged proposals in the political arena.
He said he leans toward a libertarian ideology, favoring conservative fiscal policies and a liberal social agenda.
“We have to keep a close watch over everything the government does,” Ventura said.
But Ventura’s hands-off political opinions don’t help low-income students.
“I support student loans and that,” he said, “but I also think that if you’re qualified and intelligent enough to go to college, then you ought to be smart enough to get through it (yourself), shouldn’t you?”
Students should seek scholarships and grants from the private sector instead of relying on state aid, explained Lori Marker, founding chairwoman of the College Reform Party and University extension student.
When confronted with Humphrey’s proposal to fund the first two years of college, Ventura scoffed. He said he preferred to fund the last two years of a student’s education, after they had proved their dedication to graduation.
Ventura’s libertarian flair comes out in his response to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.
While he “absolutely agrees” with certain provisions in the act, including an increase in the maximum Pell grant amount, Ventura takes issue with a provision concerning drug use by students.
The initiative will strip federal financial aid from students convicted of a state or federal drug-related offense and require them to complete a rehabilitation program and test negative for drug use repeatedly before aid is reinstated.
“I don’t condone drug usage at all. But I also don’t believe the government should be in the habit of legislating stupidity. People are going to do stupid things and we cannot legislate every stupid thing that a stupid individual does,” he explained.
In fact, Ventura advocates the legalization of drugs. He said addicts should be treated medically, not criminally. He advocated treating addicts with other drugs like in the United Kingdom and parts of Canada.
In addition, Ventura pointed toward drug legalization to combat gangs. Gangs flourish because they have a monopoly on the illegal drug market, he explained, and by opening up the market, gangs activity would decrease like mobster action did after Prohibition ended.
He suggested collecting tax revenues on the newly legitimate market to fund drug education and treatment programs.
“To win this war, you must stop the demand through education,” Ventura said.
But drugs are just about the only thing the former Brooklyn Park mayor is in favor of taxing.
He said he would give back the entire $4 billion surplus the state collected in recent years and destroy the property tax system as Minnesotans know it.
Ventura said he thinks the state has more money than the public knows. He wants to scavenge within the bureaucracy to find superfluous assets to sell off.
“When I get in there, I’m going to find out where the pork is,” he said.

The man behind the body
Forty-seven years have taken the south Minneapolis native around the world through careers in the military and the movies.
Named James George Janos at birth, he entered the military after high school and became a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War.
After his tour of duty, Ventura cruised around the country with a motorcycle pack, then returned to Minneapolis and enrolled in North Hennepin Community College for a year.
Ventura then embarked on a career in professional wrestling and earned the pseudonym “The Body” during his eleven-year career. Damaging injuries incurred while wrestling drove Ventura to announcing, and eventually to the big screen, where he starred in several high-budget action movies.
Eight years ago, Ventura became mayor of Brooklyn Park, a position he held until 1995.
Ventura’s presence on the ballot helped to bump up voter turnout in the city from 2,632 in 1987 to 20,118 in 1990. Many wonder if his gubernatorial run will inspire the same election-day fervor on a statewide level.
Ventura hopes so.
“I’m truly very unhappy with what our politics in the United States has evolved into,” Ventura said. “People are no longer voting what’s best for the people, they’re voting partisan party politics.”