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Ventura Takes a Walk
by Mark Zdechlik
February 11, 2000
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Confirming speculation, Governor Jesse Ventura has officially cut ties with the National Reform Party. And Ventura is urging the state party to follow his lead. The governor says infighting on the national level and the failure of Ross Perot supporters to relinquish power has hurt party efforts in Minnesota.

STANDING IN FRONT of the main entrance to the governor's residence in St. Paul wearing a letter jacket adorned with the Rolling Stones logo, Governor Ventura announced he's had enough of the National Reform Party.
Ventura: There becomes a time when you have to cut bait and go, and I believe very strongly this is the time. I can't stay within a national party that could have Pat Buchanan as its nominee and now the latest I hear is he's getting support from David Duke. I can't be part of that and I won't be part of that.
Ventura's announcement, which he says has been in the works for some time, coincides with a meeting tomorrow in Nashville at which a group of national Reform Party leaders is expected to oust Party Chair Jack Gargan. Gargan was elected last summer with Ventura's support in what backers hoped would be the beginning of a change in leadership, away from the party's founder, Texas billionaire Ross Perot.

Since taking office at the beginning of the year, Gargan has complained Perot supporters have failed to relinquish control. This morning Gargan's treasurer filed suit in federal court in Virginia alleging that the Perot faction refused to turn over party records, financial accounts, and even control of the party Web site.
There's More
See the letter from Jesse Ventura to the Reform Party.

Listen to a portion of Governor Ventura's news conference.

Browse through a history of Ventura's rise to political power on MPR's "The Body's Politics" section.
Gargan: You have a small group of power brokers in this party that won't allow it to grow nationally and that's not conducive to what we want to do in Minnesota.
Ventura is urging the Minnesota Reform Party to join him in breaking from the national group. Ventura was flanked by state party leaders who will push for a special state convention for delegates to decide whether to go along with the governor.

Ventura says the bitter battle for control on the national level weakened the party locally. And he says he expects if the state party leaves the national group behind, more people will get involved on all levels.
Ventura: What brought me to the breaking point was seeing qualified people here in Minnesota avoiding our party because of the national repercussions and what they see nationally of a party that's going nowhere.
Ventura singled out former National Reform Party Chair Russ Verney. Verney said he's not worried Ventura's departure will harm the national party.
Verney: There's a missed opportunity here certainly. Everyone working toward the same goal helps all of us accomplish that goal quicker; but when people work at cross purposes, it's best if they separate and go their own way.
Gustavus Adolphus College political science professor Chris Gilbert says Ventura's decision leaves an already fractured national party in further disarray.
"Based on what I have seen in prior years and especially in recent months, I have come to believe that the national Reform Party is hopelessly dysfunctional. It is unworthy of my support and the support of the American people."

- Jesse Ventura
Gilbert: It's certainly not bad news for Minnesota's version of the Reform Party, but it's certainly no help whatsoever, and, in fact, a great hindrance to the notion that there will be national-level third party with any ability to challenge the Democrats and the Republicans.
Gilbert believes the reform party would retain its major-party status in the state even if it changes its name. But to keep the status, one of the party's statewide candidates in this year's election will have to win at least five percent of the vote in each of Minnesota's counties. That could be difficult if the party doesn't back the reform party's presidential nominee.

Ventura says he will not run for president or vice president this year. He won't speculate beyond the end of his term other than offer an aside that he could go back to professional wrestling. Ventura says he'll likely endorse a presidential candidate, but only after party conventions are held this summer. He did commend Arizona Republican Senator John McCain for running a campaign Ventura says appears to be styled after his own.

Minnesota Reform Party leaders hope to hold a special state convention on the first Saturday in March.