Ventura out of Senate race
ST. PAUL - One of the country's most expensive U.S. Senate races may not be quite as entertaining as it could have been, with former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura declining to run.
Ventura, who turns 57 today, told CNN's Larry King on CNN Monday night that he will stay out of the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota against expected major-party standard-bearers incumbent Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken. While promoting his newest book in recent months, Ventura had hinted he might run.
The former governor delivered his non-announcement on national television, typical of his contrary style.
"As of right now, I am not running," he said.
However, he left the door open, if only slightly.
"I am not going to run at this moment," he said. "But if between now and 5 o'clock (Tuesday), if God comes and speaks to me ... maybe at 5 o'clock tomorrow, don't call me a liar" if the decision changes.
Senate candidates have until 5 p.m. today to file paperwork to run.
A political observer said Franken and Coleman should be happy.
"They both are going to sleep a lot better tonight and wake up tomorrow with a spring in their step," Blois Olson said shortly after Ventura's Monday night announcement.
Olson, a public relations expert who mostly has worked for Democrats, said a race with Ventura would have been unpredictable for both sides.
"It takes out a very unpredictable, unstable piece of the race," Olson said of Ventura's decision. "They both would have been in reaction mode."
Now, Olson said, the candidates can discuss the issues they want.
Ventura said his teen-age daughter, Jade, fears being treated like her brother, the subject of stories near the end of Ventura's time in office indicating that he threw wild governor's residence parties.
"That put me over the top," he said of his daughter's fears.
The former governor made his announcement on "Larry King Live," continuing a boycott of Minnesota media that began after stories portrayed parties thrown by his son, Tyrel.
Ventura termed politics "the dirtiest business in the world" and called it "shameful."
"It is an extremely dirty, rotten business that the Democrats and Republicans have created," he said.
He said federal politics is like professional wrestling, where politicians say bad things about each other in public, but behind closed doors they conspire together.
Despite deciding to stay out of the race, Ventura said he would have won had he run.
A June Rasmussen poll showed Coleman with 39 percent of the vote, followed by Franken with 32 and Ventura with 24. On Monday, a Survey USA poll gave Coleman 43 percent, with Ventura and Franken nearly tied at 26 percent.
Ventura said neither Coleman nor Franken appeals to him, and he did not mention a handful of other, long-shot candidates.
"I may not even vote," he said.
The bottom line? "It come down to this, surfing vs. the Senate. And I found surfing to be much more honorable."
Ventura spends considerable time surfing at his second home in Baja California, Mexico.
Hours before Ventura's announcement, a politically connected Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party challenger said she is taking Franken to a September primary election in part because of his controversial jokes putting down women.
"I feel like we need a change in Minnesota in our senator, and I'm not sure that our endorsed candidate is going to be able to do it," Priscilla Lord Faris, daughter of a former federal judge, told The Associated Press. "So I want to give it a very good, strong Minnesota try."
Olson said the Faris candidacy "is a long shot. ... It is not going to be a very competitive primary."
State Republican Chairman Ron Carey said Faris' entry shows Democrats are divided.
"Al Franken is a flawed candidate," Carey said. "His jokes about drugging and raping women and his failure to pay taxes in 18 states for five years show that he lacks the credibility to be a major candidate for the United States Senate, and more importantly, the credibility to be a United States senator."
Had Ventura jumped into the race, the three major contenders each would have had have a major twist or two.
Ventura is the colorful one-term governor - and former professional wrestler - who wore a feather boa during his inaugural festivities, told Playboy Magazine he would like to be reincarnated as a DD bra, promoted professional wresting events and worked as color commentator for a failed football league, all while serving as governor.
Franken, a Democratic candidate, is a comedian and satirist who discussed jokes about rape while a "Saturday Night Live" writer and paid excess taxes in Minnesota and New York while failing to pay them in other states scattered across the country.
Coleman, the major Republican Senate candidate, was a long-haired anti-establishment protester during his youth, and was elected St. Paul mayor as a Democrat. In recent days, Democrats have complained that Coleman's $600-a-month apartment (he calls it a room) is a sweetheart deal that violates congressional ethics.
In recent months, Ventura has been especially vocal about Coleman's support of the Iraq war. He criticized Franken for moving from New York to his home state of Minnesota, calling the comedian a carpetbagger.
The national media jumped on the Ventura story last week when National Public Radio aired a segment saying the ex-governor was running for Senate. However, Ventura immediately corrected NPR, saying he only was considering a run.
Before the Ventura talk peaked, the Coleman-Franken race looked like it could be among the most expensive in the country and would be the costliest in Minnesota history. At last report, Coleman had $7.2 million on hand, while Franken's bank account held $4 million.