Ken Pentel hasn't owned a car since 1981, borrowing one to campaign for governor. He said he'd bike the two miles from the official residence to the Capitol.
Pentel said he would mold society to his philosophy _ for instance, with new taxes to punish people in gas-guzzling cars, while rewarding those who adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles.
"At least I'm being honest with people," Pentel said. "If I'm honest with them that gives them the sense that I have integrity. I'm not going to pander. They know where I stand on things."
Pentel's positions set him far apart from his rivals: Republican Tim Pawlenty, Democrat Roger Moe and the Independence Party's Tim Penny. Pollution taxes, state-run universal health care and proportional voting in elections are proposals Pentel holds alone.
Asked how he would balance Minnesota's budget, Pentel struggled to identify things he would cut but rattled off several revenue-raisers: increasing income taxes on "those who can pay," hiking auto tab fees cut under Gov. Jesse Ventura, taxing industries for toxic emissions and assessing a surcharge on cars that get low gasoline mileage.
Yet Pentel maintains that his vision for the state would shrink government more and cost citizens less in the long run than his competitors'.
A long shot who had only nominal support in September polls, Pentel has a big microphone to air his proposals and is invited to all debates, thanks to the major party status the Greens earned with Ralph Nader's 5 percent in the 2000 presidential race. That designation also brings him almost $240,000 in public campaign funds, meaning he'll far exceed the $17,000 he spent toward a fourth-place finish in 1998. He said he's not sure if he'll run TV ads this fall like his competitors.
While Pentel sometimes talks with the detail of a science teacher, the longtime environmental activist and Green Party organizer says his aims are clearer and ideas more mainstream than people might think.
Pentel originally had visions of a career in show-business but adopted a career in environmental activism after moving to California. Upon returning to Minnesota in the mid-1980s, he began working for Greenpeace. He has lobbied at the state Capitol on nuclear waste and other issues.
Ken Pentel finished fourth in the 1998 race for governor with 0.3 percent of the vote. This year, he overwhelmingly won the Green Party's endorsement and a primary. He'll have much more money to spend and has been getting more attention in debates and media coverage this year because the Greens now have major party status in Minnesota. His running mate is a 75-year-old retired historian named Rhoda Gilman.