Jesse Ventura

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Winning Nomination

Jesse Ventura brought international attention to Minnesota, and shook up the political system across the USA. I was his receptionist. In addition to thousands from within the state of Minnesota, we took hundreds of calls from all over the United States. He put Minnesota on the map. Everyone knew where Minnesota was!
~Sonna Olson, Saint Paul, MN



Runner-up Nominations

The election of Jesse Ventura showed our young people that a vote really can make a difference. Whatever one might think of Ventura's politics, it was the mass appeal he created that brought thousands of young students to the polls that election day in November, 2000.
~Leo Trunt, Swan River, MN

As soon as one of the veterans of All-Star Wrestling, which also originated in Minnesota, was elected Governor, Minnesota was once again on the map. You couldn't even flip the late night channels without hearing a joke cracked at our former governor's expense once he was elected to the head of this fine state. He even cracked a few jokes at himself and fellow Minnesotans on nighttime talkshows. He changed the direction Minnesota was growing towards and finally shed a positive light on the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
~Ashley Blank, Brooklyn Park, MN

Got the light rail system started. That is a major impact on the future of twin city people-moving.
~Jay Simonsen, Plymouth, MN

Whatever you think of Jesse, he was a newsmaker for Minnesota, one way or another, for better or worse.

And if we can have the leader of the American Communist Party listed, we most certainly have to list a combat veteran who was a Minnesota Governor!
~Randy Penrod, Savage, MN

First wrestler to become governor of a state, coining the phrase: "Our govenor can beat up your govenor!".
~Lynette Siegfried, St Louis Park, MN

Reshaped Minnesota politics and showed that a non-Democrat or Republican can win here if they run the right type of campaign.
~Anonymous, Roseville, MN

Love him or hate him, he forever changed the face of state politics. And how many others can say they were governed by a pro wrestler?
~Becky Chabot

Shows no matter how conserative a state is, if you have some good ideas, you can be elected.
~Lynda Angrimson, Clear Lake, MN

With an Independent Party affiliation, a voter mandate, national media coverage, and a star personality, Ventura had the potential to change the nation's political culture. Like a Greek tragedy, however, Ventura self-destructed and isolated voters because of his combative and self-serving personality.
~Adam Tillotson, Excelsior, MN

His leadership in bringing a light rail system of public transportation to the Minneapolis area. For his populist stand on governing.
~George Blackney, Plymouth, MN

The first ever cartoon character to be elected to public office in history.
~Colleen Trombley, Coon Rapids, MN

The election of Governor Ventura provided hope to many across the country that it is possible for a Third Party to have a viable impact on elections. I was thrilled when I moved here last year, just knowing I would actually have more than two serious choices at the ballot box. I hope this makes voting more exciting and important here, which seems to be substantiated by a citation I heard on MPR that the voting turn-out in Minnesota during the 2004 election was stupendously high 70-something, compared to the 42% in Michigan, my last home.
~Elizabeth Tobias, Minnetonka, MN

First state to nominate a governor who was a former professional wrestler.
~Roger Ramthun

Although he's controversial, he is certainly significant as aformer governor from the Independent Party. It would also be cool to have a politics feature and put in people like Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphery and of course Paul Wellstone. I also believe there was a prominent female politician who was actually brought down by a conspiracy involving her husband and her own political party.
~Liz Lee


Contents

History

(1951- )

A wrestler turned politician "shocks the world"

Details of his life story were repeated early and often during and throughout his gubernatorial campaign. Born into a working-class family in Minneapolis, James George Janos served six years in the U.S. Navy before embarking on a career as a professional wrestler. Going by the name of Jesse "The Body" Ventura, he was one of the American Wrestling Association's "bad boys," a flamboyant, bullying sort who often spouted the motto, "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat." After retiring from the ring in the mid-1980s, he worked as a wrestling commentator and appeared in a few movies. He ran successfully for mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, in 1990, and served until 1995. After that first stint in politics, he had a radio call-in show on KFAN, a Twin Cities sports radio station.

In 1998, the former wrestler, talk-show host, and Navy Seal was elected to be Minnesota's thirty-eighth governor. Running as a Reform Party candidate, Ventura claimed 37 percent of the vote, besting St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman's 34 percent and Minnesota attorney general Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III's 28 percent. The pugnacious, earthy persona he crafted in his earlier careers served him well throughout the campaign, as he denounced politics as usual and managed to present his self-described lack of knowledge of key issues as a virtue. He was the voice of the people, a candidate for those who were tired of bipartisan gridlock and ready for a fresh start. When he rode into his postelection party on a Harley, pink feather boa streaming, Minnesotans knew that, for better or worse, change was in the works.

In the end, it was Ventura's talent for grabbing headlines, rather than his strong leadership while in the governor's office, that resulted in lasting change. He was a player on the national stage, and because of him folks across the country saw Minnesota in a new light. If we--the mild-mannered, cautious citizens of flyover land--were capable of voting a mouthy, independent candidate into office, what might we do next?

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