Governor Ventura appoints independent Barkley to Senate

Andrew Pritchard

Gov. Jesse Ventura on Monday appointed Dean Barkley, a two-time Independence Party candidate for U.S. Senate, to serve the remainder of Sen. Paul Wellstone’s term.

Following Wellstone’s Oct. 25 death in a plane crash, Ventura said he would probably appoint another Democrat to complete the senator’s term.

However, Ventura walked out of the Wellstone memorial rally Tuesday after he said the event became partisan and said he would not commit to a Democrat replacement and might appoint a regular citizen with no political ties.

“I’ve never made a promise to anybody to appoint anybody,” he said at Monday’s press conference.

Ventura called Barkley, who urged Ventura to run for governor four years ago, a man of high integrity who will do what he believes is right for the state.

“Contrary to the beliefs of many people, we’re all qualified to do these jobs,” Ventura said.

The governor also criticized media coverage of third-party candidates, particularly the Independence Party’s Senate candidate, Jim Moore.

Moore and the Green Party’s Ray Tricomo were excluded from Monday’s debate between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Walter Mondale, who replaced Wellstone as the DFL candidate.

“The people of Minnesota are being cheated and you’re a part of it,” Ventura said to reporters at the press conference, singling out one journalist he said was smiling and laughing during his statement.

Ventura also said he would never attend another memorial for a political figure unless it was held in a church.

Barkley said he learned of his Senate appointment at five minutes before 8:55 a.m., a little more than an hour before Ventura’s press conference.

“I’m just going to take this one day at a time and see what the next day brings,” Barkley said.

Sometime Monday, Barkley said, he would visit Wellstone’s headquarters and seek advice from the former senator’s staff.

He also said his first visit in Washington would probably be with Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, an independent, the only other senator not from the Republican or Democratic parties.

Erik Smulson, communications director for Jeffords, said the senator and Barkley had a private conversation Monday afternoon and that Jeffords believes an independent senator can work effectively with other senators and that body’s leadership.

“Sen. Jeffords is looking forward to working with him,” he said.

Ventura scheduled his press conference for 10 a.m., the same time Coleman and Mondale began their only debate before today’s election.

Moore lost a bid Monday for a court order to force Minnesota Public Radio and KARE-11 to allow his participation in the debate.

Tricomo stood outside the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul protesting his exclusion from the debate before traveling to Red Wing, Minn., to support striking teachers.

Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tim Penny canceled a rally with Ventura scheduled to take place at the State Capitol on Monday, The Associated Press reported.

“It clearly took us off message,” said Penny campaign manager Jack Uldrich. “It was not beneficial.”

Barkley is currently director of Minnesota Planning, the state agency responsible for creating a long-range plan for the state and coordinating government agencies.

Ventura appointed Barkley to that position in January 1999.

Before coming to Minnesota Planning, Barkley practiced law in Loretto, Minn., on the west edge of the metro area.

As one of the leaders of the Minnesota Reform Party, Barkley ran for the U.S. House in 1992 and the Senate in 1994 and 1996.

At Monday’s press conference, Barkley said he subscribes to a mix of economic conservatism and social liberalism, which he said would allow him to work with Democrats and Republicans.