Gov. Jesse Ventura may be inching closer to a running for re-election this year. Ventura said Tuesday that until he says otherwise, Minnesotans should consider him a candidate for governor. But he also implied his decision hinges on whether he can find a more attractive position in the private sector. That comment is drawing criticism from the other major parties.
Ventura has been tight-lipped about his future political plans and has repeatedly said he won't decide whether to seek another term until the legislative session wraps up. But during an interview on KFAN radio, Ventura suggested he's leaning towards a second run, and that his final decision will depend on what outside opportunities land on his doorstep.
"I'm weighing all options. But as of right now, there's no option that I'm willing to sign in the private sector that would eliminate me from running. So...until I say I'm not running, I am," Ventura said.
Officials of the governor's Independence Party greeted the news warmly. State party chair Jack Uldrich says he takes Ventura at his word when he says he hasn't reached a final decision. But Uldrich,who also serves as the governor's deputy planning director, says Ventura's latest comments are positive.
"This is a clearer indication that he's strongly leaning towards running," Uldrich said. "As party chair...until he tells me otherwise I am assuming that he's running. And I've been recruiting candidates on that basis."
Uldrich says potential IP candidates are more willing to run for office if they believe Ventura will head the ticket this fall, but he says he hasn't made any promises on that point.
The state's two traditional parties, however, say the governor's decision won't matter much. DFL state party chair Mike Erlandson says a Ventura candidacy would be a distraction.
"There's no option that I'm willing to sign in the private sector that would eliminate me from running. So...until I say I'm not running, I am."
- Gov. Jesse Ventura
"Jesse's campaign tends to be about simple slogans and, 'I'm not them - politicians,' even though he's quickly become a bad example of a politician driven by personal self-interest versus the public good," he said.
Erlandson criticized Ventura for suggesting he's weighing another term against possible private employment opportunities. He says that feeds the criticism that the governor has exploited his office for personal gain. It's a point made by Republicans as well. State GOP spokesman Bill Walsh says Ventura's attitude will sour voters' opinion of the governor.
"Naturally, he would look at whether to run again in terms of how it affects himself. 'Are there money-making opportunities outside of government? Oh, I'll pursue that!'" Walsh said. "Not about the agenda, not about - have we done enough to get Minnesota out of the top 10 in tax burden, have we improved lives, have we figured out a way to fund education better? None of that. It's all about Jesse," says Walsh.
Ventura spokesman John Wodele takes exception to that argument. Wodele says it's not unusual or unseemly to keep other options in mind when weighing future prospects.
If he doesn't run again, he is a...relatively young man, and he will need another job," says Wodele. "And I think it's unfair for people - anyone, no matter what their motivation - to speculate on the governor's motivation when they don't know."
Wodele says the governor seems inclined to seek another term. But he downplayed the significance of Ventura's most recent comments. Wodele says the hints and speculation won't mean anything until the governor makes a final decision.More from MPR