On “Larry King Live” this evening, former Gov. Jesse Ventura said that he was not going to enter the race for U.S. Senate in Minnesota, where he would face off against incumbent Norm Coleman and comedian Al Franken.
Citing family reasons, including exposing his children to the glare of local media, Ventura said, “As of right now, at this minute, I’m not going to run.” He teased that he could still change his mind by the 5 p.m. filing deadline on Tuesday — riffing that God could intervene and talk to him like he did with George Bush before Bush decided to invade Iraq.
Ventura said it was an “agonizing decision” but he still felt burned by the state media’s coverage of his governorship, including stories on a party that his son held at the governor’s mansion. He said his daughter, who is handicapped, expressed her reservations about him getting in the race.
The news should come as somewhat of a relief to the Franken campaign, because Ventura threatened to split the anti-incumbent vote.
The former pro wrestler cited a poll released by KSTP on Monday that showed he was nearly tied for second place with Franken, with Coleman pulling a significant lead. Ventura led among independents and fared better among Democrats than Republicans.
“Ultimately this comes down to a personal decision and my personal life,” Ventura says. “Do I want to put my family on the firing line again.”
As his nature, Ventura teased his decision for as long as he could before King finally pressed him to reveal his answer.
Ventura also took the opportunity to note the influence of religion in politics. Critical of organized religion in the past, he said, a with a bit of bemusement, “I looked hard at what it takes and I looked very strongly at the fact that I am not religious enough.”
Ventura defended the New Yorker’s Obama cartoon as protected by free speech, but said, “I don’t like it. I find it distasteful. But that’s politics…It’s an extremely dirty business.”
Franken received the state Democratic party’s endorsement in June, but will face three challengers in the primary in September, including the daughter of well-known federal judge Miles Lord.