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Ventura Appoints Independent, Replaces Late Senator Wellstone

By Helen Dewar
THE WASHINGTON POST -- Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura’s choice of longtime ally Dean Barkley as temporary successor to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) gives the Senate a second independent member and adds to the uncertainty over which party is likely to control the narrowly divided Senate in a post-election session scheduled to start Nov. 12.

Barkley, 52, is one of Ventura’s closest advisers and a co-founder of the state’s third-party movement. He helped persuade Ventura to run for governor in 1998 and managed his campaign. He ran twice for the Senate as an independent and, while losing, drew enough votes to put Ventura’s Independence Party -- which grew out of Ross Perot’s Reform Party -- on the ballot in the state.

An attorney who describes himself as a fiscal conservative with a libertarian bent on social issues, Barkley in the past has supported public financing of campaigns, tighter controls on entitlement spending, constraints on government growth, a “flat” income tax with a surtax on high incomes, abortion rights and recognition for gay marriages. He has been head of the state’s planning office.

As of Monday, it was unclear whether Barkley would align himself with the Democrats or Republicans -- or with neither -- in the “lame-duck” session. Without Barkley, the Senate is narrowly controlled by the Democrats. Each party has 49 votes, and Vermont Sen. James Jeffords, an independent, sides with the Democrats, giving them a one-vote majority.

After Ventura announced the appointment, Barkley told reporters he did not know how he would align himself when the Senate reconvenes next week. “[Jeffords] was a moderate Republican spurned by his own party,” Barkley said. “I can get along with moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans.

Under Minnesota law, according to the state attorney general’s office, he would relinquish the seat when the winner of Tuesday’s senatorial vote is officially certified Nov. 19 as the state’s new senator.