Shocked by election, major parties concede

Coralie Carlson

Melanie Evans
Caught off-guard by Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura’s gubernatorial victory Tuesday night, Republicans and Democrats at opposite ends of the political spectrum expressed an identical reaction: shock.
Despite leading in nearly every pre-election poll, Democrat Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey only held onto 28 percent of the votes Tuesday, trailing behind Republican Norm Coleman’s 34 percent; Ventura carried the race with 37 percent, with 73 percent of precincts reporting.
Republican Jason Picciano, owner of a computer consulting firm, watched the early results in silence at the Coleman’s campaign party in St. Paul.
“I gave a lot of money to the party this year — I may not be living here next year,” he said prior to final tallies.
Yet several University students at Humphrey’s party in Minneapolis said they weren’t alarmed by the nail-biter race.
Adam Tillotson, College of Liberal Arts sophomore, said he’s been working on Humphrey’s campaign for a year. He said he didn’t think his work was in vain.
“No matter what happens, I think it’s great, because we were part of a historical election,” Tillotson said.
Political science professor Virginia Gray, who has followed Minnesota’s political races for 25 years, said Ventura’s strong showing early in the evening surprised her.
“It’s an election about a charismatic candidate, not a ratification of the Reform Party,” she said. Without Ventura, the third party’s strength would fizzle, she said.
Ventura’s lead will have more long-term impact for the state’s two major parties, she said. Tuesday’s results are a wake-up call for both groups.
Ventura’s success owes more to disenchanted Republicans and Democrats then to the state’s independent voters, she said. Exit polls early in the evening showed 50 percent of Minnesotans who voted for Ventura Tuesday supported President Bill Clinton in 1996.
A Ventura win means uncertainty for the University. The Reform Party candidate’s platform proved unsympathetic to financial aid for students, and he displayed more interest in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ system than the University, she said.