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Governor Wellstone?
By Martin Kaste
November 29, 1999
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Will Paul Wellstone break his long-standing promise not to run for a third term in the U.S. Senate? In an interview published in the Mesabi Daily News over the weekend, Wellstone seemed to suggest he'd consider running a third time. He now says those comments were just speculation, and he says he still intends to come back to Minnesota at the end of his second term. But Wellstone also opened the door wider for a campaign for governor in 2002.

THE MORNING AFTER his underdog victory in the 1990 Senate race, Paul Wellstone made this pledge.
Wellstone: I don't see this as being a life-long thing. I want to give it two terms, everything I have.
Wellstone did not support term-limits in 1990, but he made it clear that he intended to limit himself to 12 years in the Senate. Now that his time is running out, speculation is heating up about what he'll do with himself in 2002. Wellstone stoked things up last week when he gave an interview to an Iron Range newspaper that seemed to hint at the possibility of a third Senate campaign. In the interview, Wellstone said it would be hard for him to walk away if the Democrats needed him to help resist the Republican majority, or if the Democrats took control of Congress and his seniority gave him powerful committee assignments.

But later, on the phone from Seattle, Wellstone downplayed those comments, calling them "speculation".
Wellstone: I haven't changed my plans at all. What I think we're going to be doing is coming back to Minnesota.
And what will he do when he comes back to Minnesota? Wellstone is beginning to hint more broadly that a run for the governor's office may be next; talking to interviewers, he volunteers that it's something he "won't rule out."
Wellstone: I love public service, and I certainly intend to continue in public service especially connected to people in Minnesota. People in Minnesota have been -- what's the word I'm looking for -- they've been great to me.
If Wellstone runs for governor, and if Governor Ventura seeks re-election, the fight could get interesting. With three years to go, the two sides are already trading campaign-style barbs. When informed that Wellstone might consider running for a third Senate term, Governor Ventura criticized him for becoming, in his words, "a career politician". Ventura says what really bothers him about Wellstone is the Senator's reliance on money from political action committees, or "PACs".
Ventura: I don't understand how he changed his mind on PAC money. To me, I will never accept PAC money. I will stay with my promise to do so, so no one owns me. See, once you accept PAC money and special interest money, then you're owned by those people.
In 1990, Wellstone pledged not to take PAC money for the first four years of his first term; later, during the '96 campaign against Rudy Boschwitz, he took $569,000 from PACs, mostly linked to labor unions. If Wellstone faces Ventura in the '02 gubernatorial race, the former underdog college professor may hear a lot about that money, along with the phrase "career politician."

Wellstone's office replied to Ventura's comments by calling them, quote, "a brand of attack politics that Minnesotans are tired of."