OK, so you probably already know that Minnesota's governor used
to wear pink boas in public. You're perhaps aware he used to strut
around a wrestling ring and throw atomic elbows for a living. And
maybe you've heard about the now-famous Playboy magazine interview.
But did you know that Jesse Ventura, who won election one year
ago this week, also brokered the biggest tax-cut package in his
state's history? Or that he single-handedly revived a wonky national
debate over which legislative system - one house or two - makes
government more efficient?
It can be hard to see past Governor Ventura's oversize
personality, but it may be even harder to dispute the notion that
his dbut has already left an imprint on America's political
Some analysts say Ventura's impression is neither deep nor
lasting. But others - especially those who see in Americans a
thirst for something other than the staid, two-party status quo -
put him on the edge of a grand experiment in three-party politics.
"There's a whole block of citizens who are really hungry for
something else," says Denise Bostdorff, a communications professor
at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. They want "someone who's
going to be candid - a candidate of candor" who isn't beholden to
special-interest groups and doesn't say what pollsters tell him to.
In many ways, the brash, unencumbered Ventura fits that bill.
Already, his tell-it-like-it-is bluntness is being emulated by
politicians nationwide, including presidential contenders. And here
in Minnesota, the Reform Party governor even managed to pull off a
fairly successful, if not terribly ambitious, legislative session.
When Ventura stuck his proverbial thumb in the eye of the
political establishment last November and won the governorship, a
few people looked at him as the savior of politics, although most
didn't get past the pink boa.
Four months later, after some of the buzz died down, he was
getting credit for orchestrating a compromise between Minnesota's
Democrats and Republicans over a tax-relief package worth $2.9
It meant every state resident got a check for an average of $630.
And Ventura designed the plan so the federal government probably
won't be able to tax some of those rebated dollars. That won him
Ventura supporters also tout that education is a big priority -
and is the only budget area to get a real increase. Everything from
child care to higher ed got new money.
"Boosting education spending - oh, that's certainly a profile in
courage," says a sarcastic Steven Schier, a political scientist at
Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
Indeed, the consensus is that Ventura's agenda has been, at best,