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Eighteen called to run for Senate

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ST. PAUL -- God apparently did not call Jesse Ventura, but 18 others got the message to run for U.S. Senate.

Whether it is divine intervention or just plain Minnesota civic mindedness, large numbers of candidates will crowd the Sept. 9 primary election ballot. The Senate race drew seven candidates in each the Democratic and Independence parties.

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Also notable is the fact that both major parties have filled the 134 state House slots. It is rare for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to field a candidate for every seat, and Republicans never have.

"It feels like it is all part of a public that is very tuned in," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Tuesday night, moments after the deadline for filing paperwork to run for office.

One name missing from the ballot was the talk of political circles Tuesday -- former Gov. Ventura. On Monday night, he told Larry King of CNN that he would not run for Senate unless God called him Tuesday. Since that call apparently never came, Ventura's friend, Dean Barkley, became one of the candidates in the crowded race.

An Independence Party founder, Barkley briefly served in the U.S. Senate after Paul Wellstone died in a 2002 airplane crash and before Norm Coleman took office.

Barkley, whose term included just eight days in which the Senate met, said Ventura will be his campaign's honorary chairman. Barkley has run for Senate before.

"I am simply trying to give them a choice," he said of voters. "They can't say I don't know what I'm doing there."

Also getting into the Independence Party fray on the last filing day was Jack Uldrich, who worked for Barkley in the Ventura administration and is a one-time party chairman.

Uldrich said he will wage much of his campaign over the Internet. Barkley said that probably is not a viable way to campaign -- yet, at least.

Seventeen of the Senate candidates have the 18th in their sight -- Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican ending his first six-year term. The large number of candidates muddies what had been seen as a race between Coleman and former comedian Al Franken, a Democrat.

A couple of Franken's Democratic opponents are perennial candidates who seldom receive much support. But one of the darkhorses in the race is Priscilla Lord Faris, a politically well-connected lawyer who turned in her paperwork Tuesday afternoon.

Faris said she has been considering getting into the race for nine months and already has her campaign team assembled.

Franken's campaign is "faltering," Faris said, pointing to his inability to get good poll numbers despite Coleman's close ties to Bush and Bush's low ratings in the state.

"I'm really just looking at electability," she said, indicating she does not think Minnesotans will back Franken.

Franken faces critics within his own party after jokes he had made about subjects such as rape have come to light.

Faris said a Democratic party leader asked her to drop out of the race after word leaked out on Monday that she was running. She refused.

One familiar name on the Senate ballot is Rob Fitzgerald of Fergus Falls, who two years ago lost to Amy Klobuchar when he was running under the name Robert Fitzgerald for the Independence Party. This time around, he is running as a Democrat.

Coleman's only primary election opponent is Jack Shepard, who is running from Rome because he is wanted on arson charges in Minnesota.

All U.S. House races, meanwhile, feature competition this year.

In southern Minnesota's 1st Congressional District, first-term Democrat Tim Walz will face one Independence Party candidate and the winner of a primary between Republicans state Sen. Dick Day and Rochester doctor Brian Davis.

In the 7th Congressional District, covering a vast area of western Minnesota, Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson awaits an opponent from a Republican primary. Alan Roebke, who lists an Alexandria address and at one point said he became a crop subsidy expert while in federal prison, faces GOP-endorsed Glen Menze, who has lost to Peterson in the past.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar had to wait until the last minute to find out he would have an opponent in northeast Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. Michael Cummins of Pine County earned the Republican endorsement just last Saturday.

In the state House, Republicans would need to pick up 19 seats to regain the majority.

Overall, 318 people are running for the House's 134 seats. That compares with 286 two years ago.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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