Making the news in Morris, at a stop at the University of Minnesota Morris.
Dean Barkley speaks with the relaxed, straight talk of a U.S. Senate candidate who is a decided underdog.
During a campaign stop at the University of Minnesota, Morris’ Turtle Mountain Cafe on Thursday, Barkley leaned back in a chair, legs crossed, and spoke bluntly with a group of students.
He used several words and phrases to describe the current state of incumbency in Washington, the kindest probably being “bozos.” Barkley talked to the students frankly about the war in Iraq, his days as former Gov. Jesse Ventura’s chief aide, and the sorry state of the race he is in against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and DFL challenger Al Franken.
But that doesn’t mean Barkley’s running as if he has nothing to lose. To the contrary, he believes that, given the circumstances, he is in a good position to win.
“The path is there to win this,” said Barkley, invoking memories of Ventura’s improbable victory in the 1998 gubernatorial race. “Whether that happens or not, I don’t know. But this is actually more do-able than Ventura’s was.”
Barkley was in Morris for campaign stops at UMM and the Eagles Club with fellow Independence Party candidate Dave Holman, who is challenging Minnesota District 11A House Rep. Torrey Westrom.
Barkley claims that he is the only true alternative available in the Senate race. The constant stream of attack ads from the Coleman and Franken campaigns has frustrated voters who are beginning to seek a champion elsewhere.
Barkley, who began his campaign in July, said his poll numbers have increased from 8 percent to 14 percent in recent weeks, and his campaign boasted on its Web site Friday that a KSTP/Star Tribune poll released the night before showed his support at 19 percent (a poll taken for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released Friday showed Franken leading Coleman 38 percent to 36 percent, and Barkley at 12 percent).
Voters aren’t speaking well of the Coleman-Franken fight and that a third-party choice is welcomed as the first of five debates in the Senate race begins Sunday in Rochester.
“Universally, (voters) are disgusted,” Barkley said. “They’ve had it. Negative campaigns work when you only have two choices. Throw in a third choice and (negative campaigns) don’t work because people have a place to go. And that’s me.”
The blame is aimed at the Coleman and Franken campaigns, the strings for which are being pulled by Washington firms, Barkley said.
“The other two candidates, with their negative ads, are doing everything they can to make me viable,” Barkley said.
Barkley was born in Annandale and earned bachelors and law degrees at the University of Minnesota.
In addition to his work with Ventura, he was appointed to fill out the final days of Paul Wellstone’s Senate term after Wellstone was killed in a 2002 plane crash.
Barkley’s positions, in a nutshell, breakdown like this:
• He supports the bailout plan Congress and the White House are hammering out. But he’s not happy about it.
“The consequences are too severe if we don’t,” he said. “It’s the worst malfeasance I’ve ever seen. Enron people went to jail for far less, and now those bozos want us to reelect them.”
• Barkley would work to end deficit spending by capping government spending at current levels. He also proposes stopping transfers from Social Security and Medicare to the General Fund.
“We can’t keep doing this,” Barkley said. “We got to get more money to the middle class and get them spending so we can start stimulating the economy.”
• Barkley’s energy policy calls for incentives to develop alternative fuels, reducing emissions and forcing oil companies to tap unused U.S. reserves.
“I’ve been green since the last (energy) crisis, in the Carter years,” Barkley said.
• For health care reforms, he wants Medicare opened to all Americans on a cost basis, get the private and public sectors to compete “and see who wins,” and mandate that pharmaceutical companies negotiate with Medicare to lower prices.
• Barkley wants an immediate end to the Iraq War, and to “no longer use dependence on foreign oil as a false excuse for foreign policy.”
He told the UMM students that the draft was the only difference between his generation and theirs when it came to the war. He called Iraq the “worst mistake since Vietnam.”
“If you had the same draft we had, you’d be marching in the streets,” Barkley said. “Nothing like having draft No. 11. Nothing like seeing those ping pong balls drop. Glad you don’t need to go through that.”
Barkley said he was a supporter of John McCain “until he became George Bush to get elected.”
He likes Obama’s words but isn’t sure he can get done what he talks about.
And while he said he doesn’t dislike Coleman or Franken personally, he doesn’t see any difference in either in terms of what they would do to reform Washington.
“We can have a little revolution in this country by using the vote,” Barkley said. “We have a historic opportunity to shake up Washington by sending me there.”
Barkley recalled the Ventura campaign of 10 years ago, and he noted that up until Ventura’s victory, he never had poll numbers above 27 percent.
“(During that campaign) I felt the ground-swell happening,” Barkley said. “I’m feeling that same thing now, only stronger. I shouldn’t get over-confident, but I’m confident we could shock the world, just like Ventura did.”