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Ventura Joins Friedman on the Campaign Trail

When you're about to head out on a tour of Texas colleges to stir up votes, who should you bring along as your sidekick?

Well, if you're independent candidate for governor Kinky Friedman, you bring along the most successful independent politician in recent American history, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.

Between them, the two larger-than-life characters can fill a room with their accomplishments. Friedman as author, comedian, and musician and Ventura as a Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, radio talk-show host, TV-personality, and actor. They also got things in common, having both appeared on Saturday Night Live and both having talking action figures.

Like Ventura, Friedman is progressive on social issues and conservative on fiscal issues. They both support alternative energy, gay marriage, abortion rights, decriminalization of marijuana, property rights, fiscal responsibility, and individual liberty. They're also both flamboyant as hell and, together, they've got too much personality for any room smaller than a college auditorium.

The college tour launched yesterday and takes them to UT San Antonio, Southwest Texas State, Sam Houston State, Texas A&M, University of North Texas, and various places in between over the course of a week. It includes both large auditoriums and some more intimate appearances.

The idea of the tour is to motivate college students and other young independent voters who are looking for a change. For a lot of them, Ventura is a cultural icon whose wrestling career, as well as his unconventional political success in Minnesota, earned him a national following. Ventura's term as governor ended in 2003, in the midst of some crontroversy over his hostile relationship with the press. Friedman has already attracted some of the same kind of hostility from mainstream media outlets who aren't sure how to deal with him.

Friedman has done more than just bring Ventura along as a campaign draw. His campaign manager and advertising director both worked on the Ventura campaign in 1999, bringing with them experience in outsider politics. Ventura's position in the polls a month out from the election was not much different from Friedman's current second place standing, and Ventura successfully defied the pollsters and won while they were claiming he had no chance. Clearly Friedman hopes to win the same sort of come-from-behind victory.

The populist, pragmatic, quasi-libertarian philosophy shared by Friedman and Ventura is one a lot of people nationwide find very attractive. It hasn't been enough to spawn a real political party as yet, but if Friedman can do in Texas what Ventura did in Minnesota, it might be time for independents across the nation to band together and demand more of the same in their states.

About Dave Nalle

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    This is an interestiong piece indeed, and well done as usual. That Ventura is joining Friedman on the campaign trail again points up the big question that needs to be asked about Friedman. The same one that nobody asked about Ventura in 1997. Will he just take his guitar and 10 gallon hat and head home when the shit hits the fan in Texas?

    For the firsat couple of years that Ventura was governor in Minnesota, the economy was good enough that the state sent back rebates on sales and income taxes collected. But when the economy headed south, so did Ventura’s ability to cope. This issue is THE issue that needs to be addressed by a fellow who has no campaign plans and is trying not to make promises.

  • Maurice

    I read the book listed here. It was very well worth the time and provided a lot of insight as to how Jesse got into the whole political thing. One of my favorite chapters was the one were he listed every ‘bad’ thing he had done (hookers, booze) in an effort to leave nothing for them to dig up about him. I think in the end he was pulled in too many directions.

  • Dave Nalle

    The same one that nobody asked about Ventura in 1997. Will he just take his guitar and 10 gallon hat and head home when the shit hits the fan in Texas?

    Certainly a valid question. But the way I figure it, even if he does nothing but annoy people while he’s in office, he’ll be better than Rick Perry who has been a disaster and an enemy of the best interests of Texans in almost every way. If Friedman gets in and does even a fraction of what he promises he’ll make a huge difference, and even if he doesn’t he won’t make things any worse – they can’t really be much worse.

    Kinky also seems to have more resiliency than Ventura did. Ventura actually cared what the press had to say about him, and Kinky seems to have more of a sense of humor and as a result doesn’t take the press nearly as seriously. The truth is that Ventura was pretty damned successful during his term, despite some of his failures, and probably could have won reelection if he’d wanted to.


  • -E

    Last I heard, Kinky was behind a few points. I think his biggest obstacle is going to be getting his supporters to actually register to vote and then vote. I know TONS of folks that want him to win, I can count on my fingers how many of my friends are actually registered to vote. I’m not sure why they aren’t, especially considering you can register online in less than five minutes.

    But no kidding Dave, even if Kinky sits in the Governor’s mansion and sings all day, he would still do more for the state than Perry.

  • Lumpy

    Imagine all the new comedy material kinky would get out of a term dealing with the useless goatfuckers in the texas legislature.

  • Clavos

    Dave, I think it’s pretty cool that a week ago, on your last Kinky thread, three or four of us were tossing around the idea that the Friedman campaign was reminiscent of Ventura’s–you even commented that you were hoping to interview the campaign manager on the subject.

    And now, heeeeere’s Jesse!

    Very interesting…

    “This could be the start of something grand”

  • Dave Nalle

    At the very least it shows how sharp whoever brought up the Ventura campaign on that thread was – pity it wasn’t me.


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    The truth is that Ventura was pretty damned successful during his term, despite some of his failures, and probably could have won reelection if he’d wanted to.

    Dave, I don’t like to disagree with you, but Ventura was not so much a good governor as a governor blessed with good times. I lived there while he was governor, and I remember this. So long as he didn’t have to worry about budget cuts, he was a “good” governor. But when it came time for him to wield the budget axe, he had a hard time, and as soon as his term as over, he took his bald head, gravelly voice and huge ego and went home to his wife, his horse and his daughter.

    It’s not that he could have or could not have won reelection. By the time his first four years were up, the good times were gone and lots of people had soured on his ‘tude. But more to the point, the gig wasn’t fun for him anymore, and that is what everybody understood. A true public servant is willing to slug out the bad times with good grace. Ventura wasn’t. Ventura was just another bitching suburbanite, and by 2001, everybody knew it. So they went back to smelling the same old nasty farts they had rejected in Nov. 1997, with the realization that the didn’t smell so bad after all.

  • Dave Nalle

    I guess my standards are low because I’m comparing him with Rick Perry who’s been a crappy governor even in good times. Admittedly it takes less to govern well when you’ve got everything going for you, but what Ventura did not do, which Perry and the hacks who Ventura replaced and was replaced by, certainly did, was feed their cronies at the public trough at the expense of the taxpayers.


  • Lumpy

    I sometimes think that the main value of politics is entertainment and with candidates like jesse and kinky there’s never a dull moment.

  • Blair Byers

    I also lived in Minnesota when Ventura was Gov. I found Jesse to be confronted with a state legislature determined to do whatever it took to discredit an Independent politician. The lesson I learned from Ventura’s governorship was if you want bipartisanship from your legislature, elect an Independent executive. Say what you like about his politics and his positions, the man never caved to political pressure.