Remember When Minnesota Elected Longshot Wrestler Jesse Ventura As Governor?
Some people remember in 1998 when a former wrestler ran for Governor of Minnesota, some don't and this is the story of how Jesse Ventura was elected.
My son Sam and I were watching TV and Arnold Schwarzenegger was talking to a talk show host and said, "When I was Governor of California....", and that's when Sam started laughing, and said, "An action star was Governor of California?". I said to him, yes, and an actor was President of the United States, and Minnesota elected a professional wrestler. He started really laughing.
Let me tell the story as best I can from the video down below. In 1998, Minnesota was on top of the world, the Minnesota Vikings had the best record in the NFL, and people were talking about former wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura. He had been mayor of Brooklyn Park and was very popular. Jesse said when he attended a function of a MN Senator, the crowd screamed his first name. That's what made him run.
Jesse put his hat in the race and had 10% of the votes in a poll, so that made him eligible to be in the debates. That's when Jesse Ventura set out to make the others look bad as career politicians and he was a man of the people. He wanted to look rough around the edges and say what needed to be said.
As each poll came out he kept rising. As the other two politicians spent almost 12 million in campaign money, Jesse only spent $300,000. Because the nation was curious about the race in Minnesota, Jesse used it to his advantage and got some TV time.
His opponents were staying the same in the polls, while Jesse Ventura was climbing. He rode the independent/Reform Party and it caused new voters to register and vote, and because he split voters in 3 he didn't have to have as large of a vote to win. He was able to swing the new voters and voters that hated business as usual to vote for him. That's when Jesse Ventura was elected Governor.
I remember that one of the things he ran on was returning the tax surplus to the taxpayers. I was living in Baton Rouge and got a check in the mail with my tax check from Minnesota.
Jesse Ventura decided not to run for a second term, citing the negative effects that all of the attention and occasional criticisms had on his wife and children. According to History.com he counted as his accomplishment was restoring the light rail for public transit in Minnesota; the METRO Blue Line was finished 1 year after he left office. He drafted a new property-tax reform package and sent tax rebate checks, called “Jesse Checks,” to voters every year for three years.
Here is a recount of the campaign that put him in office.
Here are the commercials that helped elect him. Notice the unique and creative ways he promoted himself.