Feature: Steve Anderson Remembers Election Day 1998


Election Day ten years ago, I thought I was making the wisest decision related to the future of my home state of Minnesota. Other fellow residents joined me as we cast our ballot for what would be the next governor or our fair state.

Jesse Ventura.

Hard to believe that ten years ago, our Election Day featured an event that would truly “shock the world.” While wrestlers may have served as county commissioners, city council members or school board representatives, no pro grappler ever achieved a lofty elected position.

Until Jesse Ventura.

Even though I was skeptical at first, I became an avid supporter of Ventura. I believed that a new direction was much needed and long overdue. That morning, I drove to work, listening to the various radio stations. They were taking their informal exit polls and found that Ventura was holding his own, if not leading.

Something was up. Call it electricity in the air, but something was going on. There was a movement afloat. First time voters crowded the polls and cast their ballot for “The Body.” Since I was a senior writer with Pro Wrestling Illustrated, I cannot count the number of times people would bring up Jesse to me and what I thought. I told them I supported them, but had my share of concerns.

I voted on my way home from work. I walked in the door to watch the coverage (I am a junkie for that stuff) and felt that history would truly be made, as Gorilla Monsoon was fond of saying. So, I popped in a blank VHS tape, set it for the six-hour mode and let it tape.

The hours dragged on as results came in. Jesse was holding his own against the Democratic and Republican candidates. The media talking heads found it interesting, but didn’t seem to believe that Jesse would win. As precincts closed, more numbers came in that increased Jesse’s percentage of the vote. I remember saying to my wife at the time that if Jesse broke 33%, a third of the electorate, that momentum would ensure his victory.

At about 35% or 36%, NBC called the election for Jesse Ventura. To say the local media was shocked is an understatement. As the night wore on, they seemed perplexed at Jesse’s numbers, but never thought for one minute it could happen. They almost seemed angry, even though they were facing at least four years of great news stories.

From what I heard from Jesse’s people, their meeting was not so much to celebrate as much to ask, “What the hell do we do now.” To this day, I believe that Jesse never thought he would win, nor did he intend to win.

That was a high point in my support for Jesse Ventura. The day after, my adoration turned to frustration and then to disgust.

Yeah, he won. Yeah, he had the opportunity to build a true third party. With his style, notoriety and now power, Jesse had the chance to really do something.

Instead, he wondered aloud why he wasn’t paid to be a Governor-elect. He felt his wife should collect a salary as First Lady. He claimed that his new job was 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, because that’s how he was paid.

Are you noticing a pattern?

For Jesse, being governor was all about Jesse. He wasn’t interested in changing things or giving voters a true alternative to the two-party system. He didn’t give a crap about any issues except the ones that benefited him. And he never failed to shoot his mouth off in a ridiculous way, only to pi$$ and moan about the media calling him on saying stupid things.

His term ended with a whimper and a lot of whining. The media was picking on his son who trashed the Governor’s mansion with a party. So, dad-gum it, he was not running for re-election. Fact is that Jesse was never properly vetted during the first election because no one took him seriously. The second time around, he would be put under a microscope and any and all skeletons would come out. So, he bailed.

Ten years ago, Minnesotans went to the polls and took a chance. A chance that most of us came to regret. Today, Jesse Ventura did not establish a trend, nor did he make a true difference while in power.

Governor “Body” is just an historical anomaly. A four-year distraction. A one-hit wonder that was only out for himself.

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