Editorial: Appointment handled badly by Ventura

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 5, 2002

As he often does, Gov. Jesse Ventura has a point about the political establishment. But also, as usual, it’s probably going to get lost because of the way he tries to teach the establishment a lesson.

Fed up with slights to third-party candidates, including the absence of the Independence Party and Green Party candidates at Monday’s Senate debate between Norm Coleman and Walter Mondale, Ventura appointed fellow Independent Dean Barkley to fill out the term of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Like many Minnesotans, Ventura was offended by the way mourning for Wellstone was transformed into another partisan rally, and after the memorial service last week, he said for the first time he’d changed his mind about appointing a Democrat to finish Wellstone’s term. The debate Monday was apparently the final straw.

Email newsletter signup

As the most successful third-party candidate in the state, it’s understandable that Ventura would be angry when other third-party candidates are shunned. It’s curious, however, that such a defender of the less-establsihed parties did little to build a lasting Independence-Party presence in Minnesota throughout his term in office, but under these extraordinary circumstances, suddenly decides to be the champion of third-party interests.

It’s also unfortunate that Ventura upstaged the important debate between Mondale and Coleman by scheduling his announcement for the same time. He even slighted his own hand-picked Independence Party gubernatorial candidate, Tim Penny, who was planning a rally at the same time. Penny wound up canceling the rally, saying it was overshadowed.

The way Ventura handled himself before reporters after the announcement was probably no surprise, after four years of taking his frustrations out on the media. But it was still unfortunate. He won’t win many friends for the third-party movement by pouting and refusing to answer questions.

Ventura has a right to be upset that the third parties were excluded from the debate. But he could have handled himself in a much more diplomatic way. And forcing a third-party candidate down the state and nation’s throat, rather than appointing the winner of today’s election, is not the way advance his movement.