Give ?em hell, Jesse

Four years ago this week, Jesse “The Body” Ventura shocked political pundits and the citizens of Minnesota by winning a three-way race for governor. The former professional wrestler’s election victory was the story of the year and gave hope to third party candidates from the coast to coast.

After the novelty of having an ex-wrestler as governor wore off, those in and outside the state government felt the independent and abrasive manor of Ventura’s nature. He alienated both political parties and even attempted to have members of the Capitol press wear passes identifying themselves as “Jackals.”

If Ventura proved anything during his four years as governor of the Gopher State, it was the fact that most anyone can be governor. Ventura served four years without the sky falling or the Mississippi River running dry. Compared to states run by professional politicians, Minnesota fared pretty well with Ventura in the ring. His independent presence in the governor’s mansion even forced the two major political parties to compromise in order to get legislation passed.

At the end of his term, Ventura is refusing to go out as a lamb after sweeping into office in 1998 with the force of a lion. Faced with the grim task of replacing U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone following a tragic airplane crash late last month, Ventura had intended to name a Democrat to that seat. It’s Ventura’s duty as governor to appoint someone to fill the seat to finish Wellstone’s term.

Ventura reconsidered his choice following shenanigans by both major parties. First, there was the memorial/ pep rally held to honor Wellstone in which Republicans who came to pay their respects were booed. Then, both parties refused to allow candidates from the Green Party and Ventura’s Independence Party to participate in the final Senate debate between Democrat Walter Mondale and Republican Norm Coleman (one of the two candidates Ventura defeated for governor in 1998).

The pep rally and debate so angered Ventura that he used his appointment power in a way that could place the U.S. Senate in a sleeper hold until January. Ventura appointed his ally, Dean Barkley, as temporary successor to Wellstone. Barkley, an independent, will throw the Senate into a split when the lame duck session begins next week with 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two independents (if you count James Jeffords).

Once again, Ventura is a political wild card. His actions will make the lame duck session interesting especially when the lawyers get involved. Minnesota law only allows Barkley to serve until the election results are certified. But there’s a federal precedent (used to replace then-Sen. Mondale when he became vice president in 1976) that requires the winner of yesterday’s election to wait until January.

If Barkley is allowed to remain, he could make things difficult for both parties but he most likely will anger Democrats who stand to lose their majority if only for two months while waiting for the swearing in of the 108th Congress.

Feathers will get ruffled in the Senate and Jesse Ventura will undoubtedly finish out his term with a broad smile on his face.

One final body slam to an arrogant political system.

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