Ventura says he's serious about possible Senate campaign

Former Gov. Ventura
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura broke his Minnesota media embargo with an appearance on MPR's Midday program.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

In the first few seconds of his time back on MPR, Jesse Ventura was talking about Minnesota's 2008 Senate race, saying he's seriously thinking about stepping in.

Ventura said he's not impressed with Democrat Al Franken or Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

"Coleman is nothing but a chicken hawk," he said. "Do you know what the definition of a chicken hawk is? Well, that's someone who, when it was their time to serve and go to war and go in the military, they were chicken. And then they come back when they're 50 years old and they rubber stamp the president on everything he wants to do with the war. Well, why when it was you turn to go you wanted no part of it?"

Ventura called Franken a carpetbagger for leaving New York for Minnesota's Senate race. And he commented on Franken's tax problems.

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Jesse Ventura
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, during an interview with Minnesota Public Radio Thursday.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

"Apparently, even with a Harvard education he didn't realize that when you earn income in 30 states you've got to pay taxes in all of those states," he said. "I, as a pro wrestler, knew that. Can you imagine that?"

Franken's campaign declined to comment on Ventura's criticism.

Coleman, during his weekly telephone conference call with reporters, said he thinks Ventura's talk about the Senate race has more to do with selling books than running a campaign.

"I'm going to be very blunt here. We've seen the Jesse show one time. I doubt that many Minnesotans want to see the sequel," said Coleman. "But that's the beauty of democracy is that anybody can run including the former governor. But he's also in the process of selling a book, and I think certainly there's been more focus on the selling part than the policymaking part. But I certainly welcome him into the race if that's his intention."

"We've seen the Jesse show one time. I doubt that many Minnesotans want to see the sequel."

For the past month, Ventura has been trying to drum up interest in his latest book, "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me." He's made numerous appearances, showing up on CNN and the Comedy Channel among other places. But Ventura's decision to join Gary Eichten for a Midday broadcast and to tape an interview with Twin Cities Public Television mark the first time he's talked to the Minnesota news media since he left the governor's office.

Ventura said he remains angry with other local news organizations for the reporting they did on his family.

Ventura said he didn't run for a second term as governor because of his wife's health problems. He cited property tax reform, light rail transit and forcing Democrats and Republicans to work together as his gubernatorial achievements.

He said if he were elected to the Senate he would work to abolish the federal income tax and replace it with a national sales tax. He also said he would make it more difficult for the nation's leaders to commit to war.

Ventura said he would require lawmakers to designate members of their families to serve. He would also bring back the draft.

"I think that we should have a voluntary military until we take the vote to go to war," he said. "And the minute that vote is taken to go to war, the draft should immediately be implemented at that point."

Ventura said he will not make a decision on running for Senate until the July deadline to file for office approaches.

On the way out of the MPR studios, Ventura pledged to run an aggressive campaign if he decides to get into the race.

"I don't do things halfway. I don't do them to lose," he said. "When I ran for governor people said to me that first day at the Capitol in January, 'Are you serious about this?' Well, in November, it proved I was, didn't it? When I won."

If he does run, Ventura said he would spend no more than what six years of a Senate salary would bring in, about $1 million. And he confidently predicted he could garner as much free media attention as he would need.