It's the man, not the issues: a vote for Ventura explained

Like most Minnesotans, I'm aware that other parts of the US think there must be some kind of joke in Jesse Ventura's upset victory over established Democratic and Republican candidates for governor.

The sound-bite mentality of the national media reduced Jesse - with lots of photos and videotape of his former pro-wrestling career - to a cartoon character. It was a novelty story: Minnesota elects a professional wrestler as governor.

But for me - and 37 percent of the voters in an election that had a 62 percent turnout (better than most places in the country), it's no joke. It was a choice between Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura, or business as usual.

A lot of people thought I was crazy during the campaign carrying a Ventura lawn sign tied to my backpack, flaunting it around the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. Many ask why I'd vote for a former pro wrestler.

I carried that lawn sign because I felt passionate about the Reform Party movement. There are two different ways of doing government and Jesse stands for the Reform Party way It aims to get Americans thinking differently about the way government works - it means less government spending and a closer, more neighborly relationship between government representatives and voters.

For me, it wasn't so much Jesse's appeal - which is considerable to those of us who warm to his earnest, leather-and-jeans, plain-spoken way - as much as it was my desire to see party politics change in a way that respects voters.

Jesse didn't just come out of the woodwork. He's a known quantity: He's always been a Minnesotan, he was a talk-radio host, and he was the mayor of the state's sixth largest city, Brooklyn Park.

I don't agree with everything he stands for. I'm a student and a working mother, and I don't agree with Jesse's ideas about deregulating health maintenance organizations and eliminating Head Start. During his campaign he didn't have a tax plan for the simple reason he didn't need one. His decisiveness, honesty, and integrity became the key election issues for me.

The governor-elect has run a city and he does talk earnestly about cutting government spending and overlegislation. The main reason I voted for him was his new, "third way." of politics - not buddying up with any special-interest groups. He took no PAC (political action committee) money. The shoestring budget of the Ventura campaign seemed to attest to the candidate's sincerity to change the status quo. This also helped me persuade one of my very liberal professors to vote for him. Also, by giving him literature that contained the kind of candidate information ignored by the media - which were busy obsessing about Jesse's unconventional background - I gave my him a real choice in his vote for governor, not just the choice between two status-quo candidates.

Election data show Jesse won because he got the younger generation to reconsider its civic duty. He made voting cool: He is an ordinary guy who told us our votes meant something and that we can't complain if we don't vote. His victory is inspiring because it proves a motivated, younger generation can shake up the establishment.

Though he didn't have concrete plans, Jesse did make some promises - to give new state tax surpluses back to taxpayers, to make education a priority, to put reform-minded people in his administration, and to do the best that he could as governor. That was good enough for me.

* Lori A. Marker is the mother of two and a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. She chairs the College Reform Party on her campus.

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