By John Celock
Minnesota voters are not having fond memories of former Gov. Jesse Ventura (I), with a new poll showing that he would lose if the 1998 gubernatorial race were held this year.
A Public Policy Poll released late last week shows that Ventura, a former pro wrester who won Minnesota’s governorship in an upset, would lose to Republican Norm Coleman if the election were held this year. The poll showed that Democrat Hubert Humphrey III would again finish third behind Coleman and Ventura in a rerun of the original election.
The poll showed that Coleman, who went on to serve six years in the U.S. Senate, would defeat Ventura 35 percent to 27 percent, with Humphrey pulling in 26 percent. The original 1998 results had Ventura defeating Coleman 37 percent to 34 percent with Humphrey placing third with 28 percent. Ventura left office in 2003 after declining to seek reelection to a second term.
The poll indicated that Minnesota voters do not have fond memories of Ventura, with 53 percent saying that they had a negative opinion of the former governor, while 27 percent viewed him in a favorable light. Coleman, who was defeated in a 2008 Senate reelection bid by Democrat Al Franken, had both a 34 percent favorable and unfavorable rating.
The 1998 election had been one of the most unique in Minnesota history with Coleman, then the mayor of St. Paul, capturing the GOP nomination after switching from the Democratic Party. Humphrey, then the four-term state attorney general, had easily captured the Democratic nomination in a five-way primary, defeating among others, current Gov. Mark Dayton (D). Dayton, then a former state auditor, would go on to win a U.S. Senate seat in 2000 and the governorship in 2010.
The 1998 Democratic primary had been dubbed the “My Three Sons” contest, with Humphrey defeating then state Sen. Ted Mondale, the son of former Vice President Walter Mondale, and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, the son of former Gov. and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman in the primary. Both of Humphrey’s parents, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Muriel Humphrey Brown, had been U.S. senators from Minnesota.
Ventura, then a former mayor of Brooklyn Park running on the Reform Party ticket, experienced a late surge in the gubernatorial race to narrowly defeat both Humphrey and Coleman.
Ventura had a turbulent four years in office, citing battles with the media in his decision not to seek a second term. Ventura also closed the governor’s mansion after state lawmakers declined his request for increased security. Ventura’s son, Tyrel, had been criticized for hosting parties at the mansion.
In his final months in office, Ventura criticized the handling of a memorial service for U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, and appointed political ally Dean Barkley to complete the final two months of Wellstone’s term. Coleman would defeat Walter Mondale in the 2002 election to succeed Barkley. Ventura also considered resigning from the governorship shortly before the end of his term to allow then Lt. Gov. Mae Schunk (I) to become Minnesota’s first female governor.