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Independent Named Interim Senator

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Independent named interim senator

ASSOCIATED PRESS

ST. PAUL, Minn., Nov. 4 — Gov. Jesse Ventura named fellow Independence Party member Dean Barkley as interim senator Monday, leaving the Senate split 49-49 with two independents. The announcement came as Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Walter Mondale appeared in a televised debate in the race to succeed the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

VENTURA MADE clear he was angry that his party’s Senate candidate, Jim Moore, was excluded from the debate.

“Today, three very powerful institutions, the Republican Party, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-Party, and the Minnesota media are conspiring to limit the hard-earned rights of ordinary citizens,” Ventura said.

Barkley, who describes his philosophy as a mix of social libertarianism and fiscal conservatism, ran for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 1994 and 1996. He did well enough in one race to win the then-Reform Party major status in Minnesota. The party was later renamed the Independence Party.

Barkley becomes a critical swing vote in the Senate in the lame-duck session. The breakdown is 49 Democrats and 49 Republicans, with one independent, Jim Jeffords, who usually votes with Democrats.

It was unclear how long the temporary appointee would serve. Last week, Ventura’s office and the state attorney general were examining laws and Senate rules. Although officials initially said the person would serve until election results are certified in mid-November, some now believe the term would run into early January.

Barkley said he didn’t know how he would vote, promising to speak with both parties. He also said he would seek out Jeffords.

“He was a moderate Republican spurned by his own party,” Barkley said. “I can get along with moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans,” he added.

During Monday’s debate, Coleman vowed to work for the citizens of Minnesota and said it would help the state to have a senator with a good relationship with President Bush.

But Mondale said the race “is a question about the future, but the basic question is, which future?”

After Wellstone was killed in a plane crash Oct. 25, Ventura first said he preferred to appoint a Democrat to hold the seat since Wellstone was a Democrat.

But after a memorial service for Wellstone turned raucously partisan, though, Ventura said angrily that he would consider appointing an independent instead.

Polls show Mondale and Coleman running very close. Coleman, the Republican, trailed Wellstone slightly before the plane crash. Mondale, the former vice president and senator, entered the race at the pleas of Democrats, including Wellstone’s surviving family members.

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