Shockwaves as `The Body' becomes Minnesota governor

FORGET ABOUT Democrats and Republicans. Forget about the new seat numbers in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Forget even about President Bill Clinton and his prospects for surviving impeachment. The real story of the 1998 elections is Jesse "The Body" Ventura and his astonishing victory in Minnesota.

None of the other results that poured in on Tuesday night matched the outcome in the Minnesota governor's race for sheer shock value. From 1 January next year, the people of that state will have a governor whose credentials include a career with the Navy Seals, several years as a successful professional wrestler - hence The Body - and even a stint as bodyguard for the Rolling Stones.

Born Jesse Janos, Mr Ventura (under the name he chose from a road map) does have some political experience - he served as mayor of a Minneapolis suburb for four years from 1991. He joined the governor's race as a third candidate, for the Reform Party, the movement founded by Ross Perot.

Mr Ventura beat two traditional candidates he had dismissed as too "boring". His victims were Democrat Hubert Humphrey III, son of the former United States vice-president, and Republican Norm Coleman, the popular mayor of St Paul.

His victory is a reminder that the anti-establishment sentiment that Mr Perot identified in 1992, when he won 24 per cent of the vote in the presidential race, still has the power to alter the political landscape.

What Mr Ventura will do once in office is not altogether clear. He is a champion of tax cuts but has also promised measures such as legalising prostitution. "Ventura's key issue was that he's not part of the system," Chris Gilbert, a political science professor in St Peter, said. One local Republican activist lamented: "Electing Jesse will make Minnesota the laughing stock of the country."

Mr Ventura declared: "We shocked the world. I feel like [the boxer] Muhammad Ali the night he beat Sonny Liston."

In other election quirks, a dead man garnered one-third of the votes in the race for the sheriff of Los Angeles County in California. Sherman Block, who was running as the incumbent, died of a brain haemorrhage last week but his name had remained on the ballot. And in elections for the state senate in Tennessee, a candidate's widow was voted into office, beating a man who is in jail awaiting trial on charges that he fatally shot her husband.

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