Some Fresh (and Unusual) Faces in '98
WASHINGTON — The next governor of Minnesota will be perhaps the first statehouse executive in United States history to have worked as a bodyguard for the Rolling Stones.
New York's senator-elect is so famous a press hound that Bob Dole says, "The most dangerous place in Washington is between him and a TV camera."
Aides to Ohio's new senator claim he's so cheap he once retrieved a penny from a toilet.
Get ready for the new faces of '98. Like any election, this year's midterm vote has produced compelling winners who may be the political stars of the first years of the next century.
Take Jesse "The Body" Ventura, the next chief executive of Minnesota. As the first Reform Party candidate to win a statewide race, he could foreshadow a growing US third-party movement.
Mr. Ventura's win "bore eloquent testimony that something is lacking from both parties," says John Anderson, former Independent candidate for president and current professor at Nova Southeastern Law School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Minnesota's upset victor might also end up as simply the answer to a trivia question decades hence: "Which US governor wore feather boas when he worked as a pro wrestler?"
'The Body' or 'The Mind?'
Whatever his future, the man who was born James George Vanos is clearly the most intriguing '98 victor. A former Navy SEAL who stands 6 feet 4 inches tall, he adopted the name Jesse Ventura when he went into pro wrestling. He thought it sounded Californian.
Originally, his ring (or stage) name was "The Surfer." His hulking physique resulted in that being changed to "The Body." The boas were his trademark, adding a touch of outrageousness to his scripted bad-boy character.
A Minnesota native, he settled back home when his ring years were over and became a popular radio talk-show host. He ran for mayor of Brooklyn Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, in 1991, after being angered by a zoning decision. He won, defeating an 18-year incumbent.
At first even he did not seem to take his campaign for governor seriously. But clever ads (one featured the action figure Evil Special Interest Man) and a plain-spoken approach appealed to notoriously independent Land of Lakes voters.
In the end, the man with a voice reminiscent of gravel in a cement mixer defeated the Republican mayor of St. Paul and Democrat Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III, son of the ex-presidential candidate and a legend in his own right.
"Is this something we need to be embarrassed about? No way!" says Steven Schier, chairman of the political science department at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. "We don't have a stooge [as governor]. Lots of other states do, though."
A son of an exterminator
Charles Schumer is the Democratic congressman from Brooklyn who defeated incumbent Sen. Alfonse D'Amato in a New York Senate race that gave new meaning to the phrase "rough and tumble."
He's the son of an exterminator who went to Harvard Law School and then had to sit down and explain to his hard-working parents why he was forgoing the lucrative world of corporate law for politics. He has now fulfilled everything they wanted for him, and more, in part because he is so focused he makes laser beams look like searchlights.
A career politician in every sense of the word, he has been known to forget about life's daily events.
His wife - herself a New York city official - told him their wedding was at noon. She knew he would not read their invitations, which revealed the true time - 1 p.m.
Predictably, he arrived at his nuptials an hour late, which was exactly on time.
His stamina and ability to attract attention surpass even that of Mr. D'Amato, the soon-to-be ex-Senator Pothole. While his fellow House members have groused about his penchant to grab credit, no one doubts his seriousness.
"Schumer will be a force in the Senate. He will have attended six meetings by the time [senior New York Sen. Patrick] Moynihan gets up in the morning," says Prof. Steven Schier of Carleton College.
Cheap, or just frugal?
George Voinovich is replacing a politician who at the moment is in outer space.
The Republican former mayor of Cleveland has long been the state's GOP golden boy. He has won the Senate seat being vacated by current astronaut Sen. John Glenn, who is retiring.
He remains enormously popular in his home city, where residents credit him with turning a once-ragged urban area into a hip downtown with a championship baseball team. But his defining characteristic, say his aides, is this: He's cheap.
He shines his own shoes. He buys his clothes on sale. And, yes, in one famous incident he retrieved change dropped in a statehouse urinal.
Sons also rise
The new faces of '98 include the next generation of many of America's most famous political families. In Indiana, former Democratic governor Evan Bayh won the Senate seat his father Birch held in the 1960s and '70s. In New Mexico, Democrat Tom Udall, son of former Interior secretary Stewart Udall, won a congressional seat.
The best known scions remain the brothers Bush, sons of ex-president George. Jeb won the governorship of Florida, though his margin did not match brother George W.'s reelection to the Texas statehouse.
Then there's the new face who may in fact not be the face in question - at least, according to his defeated opponent.
Gus Bilirakis, winner of a state representative seat in Florida on Tuesday, is really an imposter named Danny Divito, claims his defeated opponent, Diane Ellis.
Ms. Ellis has produced no evidence to back up her charge.