Ventura says musings about legalizing prostitution shows courage

ST. PAUL (AP) — Reform Party gubernatorial candidate Jesse Ventura said Thursday that his musings about legalizing prostitution show he has “the courage to admit that our present system is not working.”
Ventura said Wednesday that Minnesota should consider legalizing prostitution, perhaps tolerating it in certain areas like Amsterdam does with its red-light district, in an effort to control it.
“I don’t know if I’d support it … but I think it’s something that we certainly should look at,” he said.
On Thursday, the former professional wrestler and Brooklyn Park mayor said he would “absolutely not” support legalization but reiterated that Minnesota should consider new solutions to the problems of prostitution and drug use.
“We should learn from history. Prohibition was a failure,” Ventura said.
State Public Safety Commissioner Don Davis agreed that law enforcement officials have been unable to wipe out prostitution, but he called the idea of legalization “ludicrous.”
It’s fine if Minnesotans want to consider the idea, he said, but he is hearing no such demand.
“From the perspective of public morality, from the perspective of public safety, from the perspective of many, many women who’ve been victimized by this crime, I’m offended,” said Davis, who was police chief in Brooklyn Park for 18 years, including Ventura’s 1991-95 term as mayor of the Minneapolis suburb.
The commander of St. Paul’s vice unit, Lt. Joe Newberger, said the victims also include law-abiding people in neighborhoods and families of prostitutes’ customers. Newberger said many “johns” have little money, and he wonders why they are spending it on prostitutes rather than for their children.
The city of St. Paul has taken extra steps to discourage prostitution, including posting photographs of suspected prostitutes and their solicitors on a police Internet site. City police have made more than 350 prostitution-related arrests since Jan. 1.
Ventura singled out GOP gubernatorial nominee Norm Coleman and the Republican Party on Thursday for saying he supports legalizing prostitution and drugs.
Coleman spokeswoman Cyndy Brucato said nobody is putting words in Ventura’s mouth.
“Everybody in the state of Minnesota probably by now has heard those comments directly from him,” she said. “The fact of the matter is what he suggested is an entree into social experimentation.”
DFL gubernatorial nominee Hubert Humphrey III also criticized Ventura’s suggestion again Thursday.
“They’re his libertarian beliefs, and I think they take Minnesota in absolutely the wrong direction,” Humphrey said.
Regarding drugs, Ventura’s Web site says he supports medical use of marijuana. His campaign spokeswoman, Gerry Drewry, has said he supports a slow move toward legalization.
In a televised debate earlier this month Ventura said he wouldn’t move to legalize drugs, but added he becomes “irritated when government allows things to get away tax-free.”
Ventura’s comments came in a written statement and he did not respond to a request for an interview. He was busy handling media requests from around the country, Drewry said.
Though a third-party candidate, Ventura’s support in the latest media poll this week had doubled to 21 percent and pulled him much closer to the leaders.
Humphrey and Coleman drew 35 and 34 percent in the latest poll, a dead heat because of the margin of sampling error.