Jesse Ventura (born July 15, 1951 as James George Janos, which is still his legal name) was elected the 38th Governor of Minnesota on November 3, 1998, after a career as Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, actor, mayor, and radio talk show host. He ran as a candidate for the Reform Party and "shocked the world," as he phrased it, when he unexpectedly beat the major-party candidates: St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman (Republican) and Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III (Democratic-Farmer-Labor). Ventura, who spent considerably less than his opponents, is widely regarded as one of the first candidates to effectively use the Internet in a political campaign. He served as governor from January 4, 1999 to January 6, 2003 without seeking a second term.
Ventura was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He (then known by his legal name of Janos) graduated from Minneapolis's Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1969. From 1969 to 1973, he served in the United States Navy as a Navy SEAL. Although Ventura served with Underwater Demolition Team 12 during his time on active duty, he was never a full-time member of a SEAL team. However, Naval Special Warfare policy states that Ventura, just like any other Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL graduate, deserves and has earned the title of SEAL.
He returned to Minnesota and attended North Hennepin Community College in the mid-1970s at the same time he began weight lifting and wrestling. He needed a changed name though to start off his pro wrestling career. He said he always wanted the name Jesse, and the name Ventura came from Ventura County, California. He began to use the stage name Jesse "The Body" Ventura. In 1975, he married his wife Terry (the couple now has two grown children).
Ventura continued to wrestle until the mid-1980s when health problems forced him to retire from the ring. The official reason that was that he had been exposed to "agent orange" in Vietnam and due to health reasons could not wrestle anymore. However some reports are that he had an injury to his rib cage and if he wrestled anymore his lung could collapse. He began to do color commentary on television for wrestling, and then did the same on radio for a few National Football League teams. Ventura acted in the 1987 movie Predator, whose cast included future California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and future Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate Sonny Landham. He had a starring role in the 1991 sci-fi movie Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe.
Ventura ran for mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota in 1990 and served from 1991 to 1995. Between 1995 and his run for governor, Ventura had a radio call-in show in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market.
Ventura's main campaign promise was a tax refund to Minnesota residents. The state was running a budget surplus at the time, and Ventura believed that the money should be given back to the public. In political debates, he often admitted that he hadn't formed an opinion on certain policy questions. Ventura frequently described himself as "fiscally conservative and socially liberal."
Ventura was elected on a Reform party ticket, but he never received support from Ross Perot's Texas faction. When the Reform party was taken over by Pat Buchanan supporters before the presidential elections of 2000, Ventura left the party in February 2000, referring to it as 'hopelessly dysfunctional'. However, he maintained close ties to the Independence Party of Minnesota, which also broke from the Reform party around the same time.
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