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Ventura concerned about security for himself
By Laura McCallum
Minnesota Public Radio
November 15, 2001
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Gov. Ventura reassured Minnesotans this week that the state is prepared to deal with a terrorist attack. But even as he has tried to calm the public, Ventura has shown increasing concern about the security of the state Capitol - and his own personal protection.

Gov. Ventura is reportedly concerned about his own personal safety in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The question of whether he has adequate security has been discussed by Ventura and his commissioners, although Ventura has not asked the Legislature to provide him more personal protection at this point.
(MPR file photo)

Ventura delivered a 15-minute speech on the state's terrorism preparedness on public television November 13. He says Minnesotans should take comfort in the state's efforts to protect the public from threats to homeland security. The governor also mentioned a recent meeting of top state officials.

"I called together my fellow constitutional officers to review the continuity of government, and to be sure that we are all aware of our responsibility to carry out the executive, legislative and judicial processes of government, under any emergency circumstance," Ventura said.

What he didn't mention was the other issue that came up at the meeting - Ventura's own security concerns. Sources close to the situation say privately that the governor became animated when discussing his own personal safety. They say Ventura believes he is a leading target for terrorists because he thinks an attack in the Midwest is likely, and he considers himself the most visible governor in the country.

Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer was at the meeting. She says Ventura clearly sees himself as a potential terrorist target. She says it's up to the governor to determine whether he needs more security to protect himself.

"I'm not aware of where he goes or what he does or all those kinds of things, so I'm not privy to all the details of what that may be - and that's for the governor to make his own decisions on," Kiffmeyer says. "The concern that I have is, in general, for all the employees and for the citizens of Minnesota who regularly visit the Capitol and are on the Capitol grounds. The first and most important security that I would consider is the Capitol grounds themselves."

Ventura spokesman John Wodele says the governor agrees that security at the Capitol complex should be improved. A task force has recommended adding more security guards to staff entrances and buying metal detectors in case they're needed. Wodele says Ventura is considering the group's request to use a state contingency fund for the extra security costs. Wodele says while Ventura's main concern is overall state security, the governor thinks some Minnesotans are more of a target than others.

"Some might speculate that, with stature and prominence comes risk," he says.

But Wodele says there is no indication that Ventura is any more of a terrorist target than any other governor. Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver has consistently said there have been no terrorist threats in Minnesota since September 11.

Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity say Ventura also complained about his level of personal protection at last week's meeting. Two armed bodyguards are assigned to protect Ventura. The sources say he cited governors in other states who have more people assigned to protect them.

About 10 guards protect New York Gov. George Pataki, although reporters who cover him say he's usually only flanked by two or three of them. California Gov. Gray Davis' security detail may number as high as 21, although he's usually surrounded by two guards.

State Rep. Carol Molnau, R-Chaska, has been critical of the cost of executive protection in the past. Molnau chairs the House Transportation Finance Committee, which funds the State Patrol. Molnau says she sees no reason to increase the governor's security.

"I'm not overly excited about jumping in and spending additional dollars without some assurance from public safety, or someone other than the governor - who, I think most people would say, has a bit of a paranoia," Molnau says. "When things happen, he internalizes them and it's about him. I'm not sure that this is about him."

Molnau says she sees no military or strategic reason why Ventura would be a terrorist target.

Spokesman Wodele says Ventura is not asking the Legislature to fund additional personal protection at this point. He says Ventura does view security of the state Capitol and surrounding buildings as a top priority.

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