Ventura's Senate appointment hinders Penny's campaign

By Craig Gustafson
Published November 5th 2002 in Duluth News Tribune
On the final day of the 2002 campaign, the Independence Party's drive to keep the governor's office suffered at the hands of its incumbent.

Independence Party candidate Tim Penny pulled the plug on a rally with Gov. Jesse Ventura at the Capitol in St. Paul, scheduled just two hours after Ventura appointed party organizer Dean Barkley as Minnesota's interim U.S. senator.

Penny campaign manager Jack Uldrich said Ventura's timing couldn't have been worse. "It clearly took us off message," he said. "It was not beneficial."

The conflict came just when Penny most needed Ventura. Polls taken last week showed Penny's support slipping and the two major party candidates, Democrat Roger Moe and Republican Tim Pawlenty, declared in recent days the race was now just between them.

Penny spent the day at several police and fire stations around St. Paul. He said he was disappointed in Ventura's decision to appoint a fill-in senator before the election.

"I advised the governor to fill this vacancy with the winner of tomorrow's election, regardless of whether that person was an independent, Republican or Democrat," said Penny, calling it the only way to honor the election process and Minnesota voters.

"We did not need another distraction," he said.

Meanwhile, with the Senate race getting so much attention, Moe stuck close to Democratic Senate candidate Walter Mondale at rallies in the Twin Cities. Pawlenty made one last swing around the state, visiting Duluth, Moorhead and Rochester before heading home to St. Paul.

"Campaigns are like sporting events," Moe said. "You want to hit for your best game at the end of the tournament."

He joined Mondale, actress Jessica Lange and the band Soul Asylum at a noon rally in downtown Minneapolis. Moe also traveled around the Twin Cities area doing several meet-and-greets, which have been a staple of his campaign.

"Why am I fired up? Because things changed a little over a week ago, and I feel a greater sense of urgency about the issues I care about," Moe said.

Pawlenty continued his call for undecided voters to choose him over Moe.

"It does appear from the polls that the race is narrowing and coming down to Sen. Moe and me," he said. "I hope people will take a look at our campaign and consider joining our team in the last hours of the campaign."

Meanwhile, Ken Pentel wrapped up the Green Party's first-ever gubernatorial campaign as a major party in Minnesota. He continued his push for changing existing election law, calling for an instant runoff voting system where voters could rank candidates in preferred order.

"It's time for all Minnesotans to be represented, and it's time to stop undermining real democracy," he said. "It's time for a change."