Ventura’s party tries to regroup through ‘Never Trump’ push

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

ST. PAUL — A party that gained prominence when wrestler Jesse Ventura was elected Minnesota governor in 1998 is trying to return to political relevance in the state by harnessing the dismay of Republican voters who refuse to support their presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

For two decades, the Independence Party of Minnesota had been considered a third major party in the state, peaking with Ventura’s shocking victory back when it was known as the Reform Party. But in 2014, none of its statewide candidates received 5 percent of the vote for a second consecutive election, causing the party to lose automatic ballot access for state elections.

Seldom a player in presidential politics, the Independence Party saw an opportunity to revive its fortunes this year and endorsed independent candidate Evan McMullin — a former CIA operative and Republican congressional staffer who has been a leader of the “Never Trump” movement.

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Independence Party officials say the perceived weakness of Trump as the GOP nominee and Hillary Clinton’s lukewarm support among some Democrats in the state give the party its best shot at regaining major party status.

“In the aftermath of this year’s election, some party is going to benefit,” said Tom Horner, who ran as the party’s endorsed candidate for governor in 2010. “I think the Independence Party could grab hold of that.”