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Jesse Ventura

Jesse Ventura (born July 15, 1952 as James George Janos) was elected the 38th Governor of Minnesota in 1998, after a career as professional wrestler, actor, mayor and radio talk show host. He ran for the Reform Party and completely unexpectedly beat the major-party candidates: St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman (Republican) and Minnesota Attorney General "Skip" Humphrey (Democrat). He served as governor from January 4, 1999 to January 6, 2003.

Ventura's main campaign promise was a tax refund of the state's surplus. In debates, he often admitted that he hadn't formed an opinion on certain policy questions. Later as governor, he came to support a one-house legislature, light-rail public transport, a property tax reform, gay rights and abortion rights. While funding public school education generously, he opposed teacher's unions. Lacking a base in the Minnesota house and senate, his vetos were often overridden.

When the Reform party was taken over by Pat Buchanan supporters before the presidential elections of 2000, Ventura left the party and joined the Independence Party of Minnesota.

Ventura has produced several controversial quotes. In one of his books, he relates his visit to a prostitute in Reno, Nevada and states that prostitution should be legal. During a protest of college students, he said "If you are smart enough to go to college, you are smart enough to figure out a way to pay for it." In a Playboy interview, he said "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business."

Ventura has been criticized for privately profiting from his heightened popularity. He was hired as host for the failed XFL football enterprise and published several books during his tenure as governor. On his weekly radio show, he often criticized the media for focusing on these deals rather than on his policy proposals.

After a trade mission to China in 2002, he announced that he wouldn't run for a second term as governor. During another trade mission to Cuba in the summer of 2002, he denounced the economical sanctions of the US against that country.

On November 4, 2002, he was booed at a memorial service for the victims of the plane crash which had killed Senator Paul Wellstone. Reportedly, the service turned into a political rally when Wellstone's campaign treasurer gave a let's win this speech. Disgusted, Ventura changed his mind about appointing a Democrat to finish Wellstone's Senate term; on his radio show he solicited resumes for the Senator job and eventually he appointed fellow independent Dean Barkley.

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