Governor 'got people to pay attention'
It's difficult to argue that Jesse Ventura attracted attention to Minnesota state government. But after he announced Tuesday that he won't run for a second term, legislators said the attention didn't translate into a good job of gover...
It's difficult to argue that Jesse Ventura attracted attention to Minnesota state government.
But after he announced Tuesday that he won't run for a second term, legislators said the attention didn't translate into a good job of governing.
Ironically, media coverage that helped him draw attention to government was one of the reasons he gave for leaving. The former professional wrestler, radio talk show host, actor and Navy frogman hinted part of the reason he is bowing out of politics is media intrusion into his family life.
Legislators said the decision means a better government.
"He kind of speaks with forked tongue," Sen. Cal Larson, R-Fergus Falls, said, echoing comments from many lawmakers who said they never knew if Ventura was leveling with them.
"He was the most disengaged governor I ever have been involved with," added Larson, who has been a legislator under five governors.
Democrats and Republicans agree either of their candidates -- Roger Moe or Tim Pawlenty -- would do a better job than Ventura.
"Both of the candidates have to be realists," Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, said about their legislative negotiating background, compared to Ventura's light political experience.
The 50-year-old governor Tuesday said he decided weeks ago not to run again, but waited until after he returned from a trade mission to China to announce it. He told Minnesota Public Radio of his decision during the "Midday" program, then refused to talk to reporters when leaving the studio.
He appeared in a good mood in making the announcement, and in typical Ventura fashion continued his attacks on political reporters and legislators.
When asked what he considered his biggest accomplishment, Ventura said: "Focus on government: We got people to pay attention."
Another part of his legacy will be last year's tax changes, he said, adding he managed to get lawmakers to make "property tax reforms when nobody else could."
But he said he remains disappointed lawmakers would not give his one-house legislature concept a vote.
Ventura said it is someone else's turn to govern.
"I lead the revolution," he said, "but at some point I want to hand it off to someone else."
The Ventura revolution began in 1998 when he entered the governor's race under the Reform Party banner. He had just wrapped up a Twin Cities radio talk show gig after 11 years a professional wrestler.
As he said at the time, "We shocked the world" on Nov. 3, 1998, when he received 37 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Insiders said he was as shocked as anyone, and had thought little about preparing an administration.
Under a national -- and at times international -- spotlight, he assembled a cabinet that even his detractors say is second to none. He didn't concern himself about political backgrounds, so he was free to pick the best people for the job, regardless of political background or philosophy.
But he ran into plenty of public relations problems during his term.
For instance, he told an outdoors reporter that "you haven't hunted until you've hunted man." He told Playboy magazine that organized religion is a crutch for the weak-minded, and that he would like to be reincarnated as a bra.
Legislators were particularly critical of Ventura's moonlighting. He wrote two books, authorized a play about his life, officiated a professional wrestling match and served as color commentator of the XFL football league, which folded after one season.
On public radio Tuesday, Ventura made it clear one reason he opted against another term was publicity over his second jobs and his family. The most recent story that infuriated him was about his 22-year-old son Tyrel, who recent news reports say partied at the governor's official residence.
Ventura -- who alternately said he would not reveal what he would do next and that he had no specific plans -- made it clear he will not miss the spotlight on his family.
"I think the family should be left out of it," he said. "I think kids should be left out of it."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707