- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The nation's newest senator ran Jesse Ventura's gubernatorial campaign while managing a car wash a cigar-chomping, plain-speaking type who schmoozes with reporters as much as the governor disparages them.

In Dean Barkley's early third-party Senate runs, he hauled fake donkeys and elephants in cages to ridicule the big parties.

After Mr. Ventura unexpectedly appointed Mr. Barkley to Minnesota's vacant Senate seat, the man credited with founding the state's third-party movement put his feet up on his desk and took calls from Senate power brokers, with another call coming in yesterday from the White House.

Mr. Barkley also was formally sworn into the Senate yesterday, leaving the chamber tied, for now, at 49 seats for each party and two independents.

The first senator to come-a-courting was Sen. James M. Jeffords, the Vermont independent who usually sides with Democrats, tilting the chamber their way.

"What do you think is going to be coming my way in the next week? What should I be looking out for?" Mr. Barkley said he asked the senator, getting the reply: "Don't commit to anything."

Twenty minutes later, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, called Mr. Barkley's cellular phone. Mr. Lott did most of the talking and raised the issue of bottled-up judicial appointments, and the two agreed to meet.

In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Mr. Barkley called himself an advocate of "strict construction" of the Constitution and said he would have no problem with stalled Republican judicial nominees.

A few hours after Mr. Barkley was officially sworn in, President Bush called him for his vote, which is likely to determine who has control when the Senate reconvenes in a lame-duck session later this month.

"We just talked about what it feels like to be hit by lightning," said Mr. Barkley, 52. "I said I'm starting to realize what it's like."

He is a suburban lawyer and he is a founder of Mr. Ventura's Independence Party, which grew out of the Reform Party founded by Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot. Before that, he was a Democrat, but said he got fed up with big money running the party.

Mr. Barkley was caught off-guard by Mr. Ventura's choice, despite their close ties. The flamboyant former pro wrestler at one point said he might appoint an average citizen, even mentioning the man who picks up his garbage.

Learning he got the job an hour before it was announced, Mr. Barkley quickly changed from jeans and a sweatshirt into a suit and hustled to the state Capitol.

"I heard it on the radio that he was going to do it and I wondered who it was going to be," Mr. Barkley said.

The two got to know each other well when Mr. Barkley was a regular guest on Mr. Ventura's talk radio show. On the air, Mr. Ventura twisted street-gang names, referring to the major parties as Rebloodicans and Democrips.

"He talked like us," Mr. Barkley said.

Mr. Barkley is filling the seat left vacant by the Oct. 25 death of Sen. Paul Wellstone. The Democratic party picked former Vice President Walter F. Mondale to run against Republican Norm Coleman.

Amiable and knowledgeable, Mr. Barkley is regularly seen around the Capitol chomping an unlit cigar, visiting with whoever cares to talk. He understands politics and policy but realizes he has a lot to learn about his new job.

"I've only been at this now for a couple of minutes," he said.

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