POLITICAL JOURNAL Party leader sends action-figure warning

Minnesota and California. One's freakishly cold come winter, the other boasts sunshine and palm trees in December. And the cultures of these two states couldn't be more different.

But more than a few political watchers have been comparing the North Star and the Golden States lately because each has its own buffed-up, infamously brash-talking celebrity politician.

This week the San Francisco Chronicle published an opinion column by Mike Erlandson, Minnesota's DFL state chairman, that warned Californians not to repeat Minnesota's mistake.

Erlandson wrote in the Chronicle: "Let Minnesota's failed attempt at government-by-action-figure serve as a warning."

In 1998, Minnesotans -- well, 773,713 of them anyway -- were enraptured by the no-nonsense, straight-talk style of a WWF wrestler named Jesse Ventura and ushered him into the governor's mansion.


At that point, Ventura's experience with political office consisted only of serving as mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minn., and with no voting record to be pulled apart and analyzed, "The Body" provided the fresh alternative to the two major party candidates.

Now Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose role as a cyborg in the "Terminator" movies added to his wealth and made him a household name the world over, wants to be California's top executive and has entered the fray of the circus-like recall effort of Gov. Gray Davis.

Schwarzenegger's presence on the political scene prior to running for office has consisted of promoting certain ballot initiatives, including Prop. 49, which sets aside money for after-school activities for grades K-9.

Then there was Prop. 187, which Schwarzenegger has since distanced himself from, which would have denied illegal immigrants access to public services.

Oh, and he married a Kennedy -- some may consider that political experience. Not Erlandson.

"It is pure Hollywood fantasy that a movie-star governor with no experience, who bad-mouths and taunts the Legislature, is going to solve your crisis," Erlandson wrote in the Chronicle, referring to California's crippling budget deficit.

Erlandson wrote that while in office, Ventura turned a huge budget surplus into a deficit and proposed severely cutting services as a solution. And Ventura's infamous quotes about hunting man and wanting to be reincarnated as a 38DD bra didn't add to the dignity of the office.

Further, Erlandson wrote, anyone who challenged Ventura's run as an XFL commentator or his "lackadaisical governing style was quickly treated to a barrage of personal attacks, after which Ventura took his ball and went home."


Ouch. I don't know that I disagree on the "personal attacks" part, especially given Ventura's promise upon leaving the Capitol that he would give certain media personalities a taste of their own medicine.

But Erlandson's column certainly evokes a taste of bitterness -- the type of bitterness that reminds you the DFL failed miserably in the last two gubernatorial elections, with a third-place finish to Ventura and Republican Norm Coleman in 1998 and Roger Moe's loss to Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty last year.

In any case, let the world laugh at California's political bar fight. Minnesota's off the hook.


Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced he will lead a biosciences and medical delegation on a trade mission to Montreal, Canada, Sept. 28-30. The governor will meet with Quebec Premier Jean Charest and aims to market Minnesota's strengths in the biosciences industry.

Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, an independent from Rochester, has been given the "Friend of Retail" award by the Minnesota Retailers Association.

Lenora Chu covers state government for the Post-Bulletin. You can reach her via e-mail at or by phone at (507) 285-7706.

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