|Governor of Minnesota|
From: January 4, 1999 - January 6, 2003
|Party||Reform Party (until 2000)|
Minnesota Independence Party
Jesse "The Body" Ventura (born July 15, 1951 in Minneapolis, Minnesota), is a former professional wrestler and actor turned politician who served one term as governor of Minnesota from 1999 through 2003. Ventura was a Navy SEAL for six years during the Vietnam War. After the war he attended North Hennepin Community College and then began an eleven year career in wrestling. Ventura later became an actor, with his film debute being a supporting role in Arnold Schwarzenegger's Predator (1987). In 1990, Ventura was elected Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota's sixth largest city, and served from 1991 through 1995.
Jesse Ventura's political views are libertarian leaning; he supports property tax relief, reduced bureaucracy in education, medicinal marijuana, abortion rights and gay rights, and opposes a militaristic foreign policy. In 1998 Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota in the Reform Party and won with a campaign that was "Don't vote for politics as usual", defeating Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. He spent considerably less than his Republican and Democrat opponents ($400,000) and was one of the first politicians to use the internet as a grassroots tool. The surprise victory led to sales of "My governor can beat up your governor" T-shirts.
As governor, Ventura spearheaded a sales tax rebate, with Minnesotans receiving a tax-free check in late summer for every year of his administration and was influential in reducing class sizes through education funding. Ventura advocated turning the State Assembly and State Senate into one unicameral legislator. A third party governor working with a Republican controlled Minnesota House and a Democratic controlled Minnesota Senate, Ventura vetoed 207 bills.  He vetoed a bill that promoted recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, saying "I believe patriotism comes from the heart. Patriotism is voluntary."  Additionally, he participated in trade missions to Mexico and China. In 1999, Ventura had a public disagreement with erstwhile Reform Party leader Ross Perot over Perot's control of the party and with Pat Buchanan's seeking the party's 2000 nomination, and Ventura took the Minnesota branch independent of the national Reform Party to become the Independence Party of Minnesota. In 2002, Ventura appointed his fellow Reform/Independence Party politician Dean Barkley to the U.S. Senate to fill out the remaining two months in the term of the deceased Paul Wellstone.
Ventura appeared to enjoy the notoriety more than the job. He did an interview for Playboy, guest-refereed a pay per view WWF wrestling match while he was governor, and wrote his 1999 best selling memoir I Ain't Got Time to Bleed. In 2001 he also allowed himself to be hired as a commentator for the short lived XFL.  Ventura believed prostitution should be legalized and called organized religion a "sham." In an effort at damage control he then specifically attacked "fundamentalist fanatics" who he claimed thought "everybody must believe the same things they do." He gave no examples. He was also appalled that "there are lots of people out there who think they know the truth about God and religion." In an interview with CNN anchor, Piers Morgan, Ventura stated that he was an atheist and compared believing in God to believing in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause.
He also caused controversy when he commented, "Those streets in St. Paul must have been designed by drunken Irishmen." Although riding a wave of popularity when he first came into office, by the time of the next election that had changed. The economy had weakened and his governorship was plagued with embarrassments. By the time he left office in 2003, his job approval rating had dropped into the teens.
Jesse Ventura has suggested that World Trade Center was demolished with explosives by the Bush administration. “What they've sold us, is that 19 Islamic radical terrorists, came to this country armed with box cutters, and they defeated our multi-billion dollar air defense system, all while taking orders from a bearded guy in a cave in Afghanistan."