Ventura's victory as a third party candidate was considered a historic major upset, especially considering he was a former
WWE (at that time, WWF) professional wrestler. He ran on the Reform Party ticket, a party which had been founded by two-time presidential candidate
Ross Perot who had received 23% of the vote in Minnesota in the
1992 presidential election and 12% in the
Norm Coleman: Won the
Republican nomination for governor, by winning the primary with token opposition. He was the
Mayor of St. Paul. He was elected mayor in 1993 as a Democrat with almost 55% of the vote. In 1996, he switched parties to become a Republican after years of heat from his party. He won re-election as mayor in the heavily liberal city (70% registered Democrats) with almost 59% of the vote in 1997.
Ventura spent around $300,000 and combined it with an aggressive
grassroots campaign that featured a statewide bus tour, pioneered use of the Internet for political purposes, and aired quirky TV ads designed by
Bill Hillsman, who forged the phrase "Don't vote for politics as usual." Unable to afford many television ads, Ventura mainly focused on televised debates and public appearances, preaching his brand of
libertarian politics. His speech at a parade in rural Minnesota during the summer attracted what organizers of the annual event described as one of its largest audiences. He ran on cutting taxes, reducing state government, and reducing public school classroom sizes to a 17 to 1 ratio. He also supported a public debate on the viability of legalized prostitution.
A poll taken in June showed that Coleman would defeat any other Democratic candidate than Humphrey. But Humphrey would defeat Coleman 44% to 34%. However, Ventura polled in the double digits. No other candidate in the Reform Party's brief history in Minnesota has received more than 5 percent of the votes in a statewide election. Following the primary election in September, a poll on October 20 showed Humphrey leading 35% to Coleman (34%) and Ventura (21%). But the Star Tribune poll suggested that Ventura's surge with the voters had come mostly at Humphrey's expense. Since the primary, Humphrey's support among likely voters had dropped by 14 percentage points, while Coleman's had increased by 5 percentage points.