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Special Event

Ventura: 'I am Disaffiliating Myself From the National Reform Party Completely'

Aired February 11, 2000 - 1:59 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. JESSE VENTURA (R), MINNESOTA: ... I am announcing today, right now, that I am disaffiliating myself from the national Reform Party completely as of this day, and I'm going to encourage the state party of Minnesota, which was the Independence Party, prior to the Reform Party, to disaffiliate also and to go back to what we were before, and that is the Independence Party of Minnesota. I believe that the national party is going in directions that are not conducive to what we believe here in Minnesota of what we want the party to be, and I believe that their being -- that the national party problems are being destructive to us here in Minnesota, and so that's the move that I'm making today, is that I will have -- I'm disaffiliating with any involvement with the national Reform Party anymore.

I want to also clear the air up a little bit. When you -- when they speak and they -- when you speak and talk to these national Reform Party people, they seem to want to take some credit in some way for my election. Let me go completely on the record and tell you the national Reform Party did virtually nothing, zero, to get me elected or to get Lieutenant Governor Schunk elected. And so they seem to have an attitude that they only care about one election, and that's at the top of the party out nationally in Washington, and that all the others down below, they're not concerned with at all.

And we want to build a strong third-party movement here in the state of Minnesota, and I think that we are. We're the leader as far as that goes, and we'll continue to be. I will also encourage -- we have a committee meeting tomorrow which I will attend with the central committee of the state party, and I will be encouraging them also to disaffiliate and going back to being the Independence Party of Minnesota, and that, of course, will fall on Rick McCluhan, our state chair.

QUESTION: Governor, you're a Navy SEAL, governor. Why not stay and fight?

VENTURA: Well, first of all...

(LAUGHTER)

First of all, being a Navy SEAL is irrelevant to staying and fighting. There's a certain point in time when it becomes so destructive to our party in Minnesota. I believe we're losing a lot of good people. You've seen defections from other parties lately. You know, the Republicans have lost a few people, and we're losing people who I think would join our party if it wasn't for this situation with the national party. And we believe that it's a positive move on the part -- and I think I'm speaking on behalf of the lieutenant governor -- she's assured me today that she is taking the same position that I am. So, it is not just Jesse Ventura, governor of Minnesota, disaffiliating, it's also Lieutenant Governor Mae Schunk disaffiliating.

Stay and fight? There comes a tie when you -- when you have to cut bait and go and I believe very strongly this is the time. I mean, last year. Jack Gargan was elected through a total, fair process to be the leader of our party, and tomorrow they're holding a meeting where they're going to try to vote him out as the leader of the party. They're trying to do it illegally. You have a small group of power brokers in this party that won't allow it to grow nationally, and that's not conducive to what we want to do in Minnesota.

QUESTION: Governor, is this a permanent split, governor, or could you see going back to the national Reform Party?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you're a bully and not getting your way and that's why you're leaving the party. Can you respond to the remark?

(LAUGHTER)

VENTURA: Who was that? Russ Varmit (ph)?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Vermin.

VENTURA: Russ Verney, oh. He can say what he wants to say, and I challenge him to come forward and say in what manner at all he or the national party helped any smaller election to take place. because they don't. As -- I -- as far as me being a bully, I don't believe that I'm a bully at all. I've really not really had a lot of contact with the national party. My job is to govern the state of Minnesota. and my job is to win an election. I challenge Russ Verney to what election have they ever led and one.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) main-style Independent now or will you go on to affiliate with a Minnesota umbrella Independent-type party?

VENTURA: Well, I'm an Angus King -- I'm an Angus King Independent right now as far as the national Reform Party goes, because I've disaffiliated, but I still want to remain an active member, and will try to, with the Minnesota state party in leading them back to what they were before. Let's remember, for those of you that are national journalists here, the Independence Party of Minnesota existed before 1992, and it was a good, solid third-party movement that Dean Barkley (ph) got major party status for prior to any of the Reform Party. We just now want to go back to being the Independence Party of Minnesota and start doing positive things and creating solid a third-party movement to continue to happen here in the state of Minnesota.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) voters together. I'm wondering if you think that the dissension now will break them apart at all.

VENTURA: What was that?

QUESTION: A lot of voters came together because of you, and that's what the national party is hoping to keep you for, but with your decision now, will you break people apart, will this cause the Reform movement to slip and slide?

VENTURA: Nationally, I'm sure it probably will, but, again, I can't stay within a national party that, you know, that could well have Pat Buchanan as its presidential nominee. And now the latest word, I hear he's getting support from David Duke. Well, I can't be part of that, and I won't be part of that.

QUESTION: Governor, is this a permanent split?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) your contact with Donald Trump, have you told him of your plans today, and what are you urging him to do?

VENTURA: Yes, I have, and I spoke with Mr. Trump midweek or earlier this week, and I told -- I informed Donald what I was going to do. I got Donald's full blessing to do it. He had no problem with it. He said absolutely, and he said -- Donald's quote was, "you're the leader." And what Donald does now will be his choice, but maybe he'll be the candidate for the Independence Party of America for president, but -- pardon me?

QUESTION: ... business?

VENTURA: I don't -- no, I want it to Be Minnesota right now. My focus is on continuing to have Minnesota be the leader of the third- party movement, and this move today will, I believe, strengthen that for us, that we'll be able to concentrate on what we should be concentrating on, and that is the state of Minnesota, without the distraction of this dysfunctional national party.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: "A dysfunction national party." With that, Jesse Ventura, the elected governor of Minnesota, has pulled out of the national Reform Party. He said it did zero to get him elected in Minnesota in the first place. He wants to go back to what was known back then as the Independent Party of Minnesota and use that as a platform for a solid third-party movement. Whether or not there would be an Independent Party for America is still up in the air.

There is a political scientist in Minnesota at Carleton College who said that Jesse Ventura never had much interest in building the Minnesota or the national Reform Parties and he doubts whether he would have much interest in building a third party.

Pat Buchanan and Donald Trump were mentioned prominently in his news conference at the governor's mansion in Minnesota. Jesse Ventura doesn't much like Pat Buchanan, conservative former Republican now seeking the Reform nomination. Ventura has been more interested in Donald Trump, who also has expressed disgust with the national organization. Trump now is considering running for president under Ventura's new party banner, whatever that might be -- this is a developing story. And we're going to get more information now.

Donna's next -- Donna.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now by telephone from Princeton, New Jersey, Reform Party spokesman Beverly Kidder. She serves on the state party's state board of trustees and was Ross Perot's press secretary in New Jersey during his two presidential campaigns.

Beverly, I know that you probably think, as I read it, good, go, but what about the support that Ventura takes with him?

BEVERLY KIDDER, REFORM PARTY/PEROT SUPPORTER: Nationwide, Jesse didn't have that much support. He has tremendous support in the state of Minnesota, and I believe the voters there like him. But, you know, since his "Playboy" interview, since his few other statements he has made and some of the activities that have come out of Minnesota, namely trying to hijack the convention to that state, he's lost a lot of support within the party nationwide.

KELLEY: He's lost your support, because you said you used to be a Jesse fan.

KIDDER: I was a Jesse fan, I had his poster in my shop, he certainly did he a great thing for third parties, he did -- the fact that he won after getting into the debates was the biggest thing he did for any third party. And the second thing, he brought us a tremendous amount of publicity, some of it not always so good, but publicity, you know, makes you known. And the Reform movement is now so known that McCain is trying to steal it from us -- every other sentence includes the word "reform" -- and of course Bush is now a -- I think his quote was a reformer with results.

KELLEY: But what about a split party? It's so diverse to begin with. Can the Reform Party do this, and where is Ross Perot? Not hearing very much from him.

KIDDER: Ross Perot is doing what he likes to do, which is, I think, being a businessman. The other part of your question was?

KELLEY: A split party. If you have a split party when you have a diverse party to begin with, will the Reform Party stand up, and how will you go on from this?

KIDDER: Well, I think that we have been liberated with this, is my personal opinion, because the Minnesota bunch, the Ventura bunch, differed with our national platform to an extreme degree. After the battle in Seattle, Jesse came out with a paper in support of the World Trade Organization, and of course that's one of the tenets of our platform, is we are against bad trade deals that send jobs overseas. So, there was a divergence there, and I'm thinking now that he has made the statement he will get some followers that will go over to him, but my feeling is is that new people will come to us now and other people will come back that didn't like that direction the party could have gone if he stayed.

KELLEY: Reform Party spokesman Beverly Kidder, thanks for visiting with us. Appreciate it.

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