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Electing Jesse Ventura: A Third-Party Success Story

Jacob Lentz
Electing Jesse Ventura: A Third-Party Success Story
ISBN: 978-1-58826-007-9
ISBN: 978-1-58826-031-4
2001/164 pages/LC: 2001031626

""An absolutely first-rate piece of scholarship.... It is the best analysis of Ventura's victory I have read, and it deserves a place on any select bibliography of recent works on American third-party politics.... The single case can indeed speak to broader questions of analysis and theory if the scholar makes it do so. Lentz succeeds handsomely."—Frank J. Sorauf, Political Science Quarterly

"A fascinating investigation of how this political novice and former professional wrestler, running as a third-party candidate, defeated these prominent candidates of the two major parties."—Foreword Magazine

"Lentz presents an engaging investigation of Ventura's victory and what it might mean for future third-party candidates. Recommended for academic and most public libraries."—Library Journal

"A fun, quick read about the election of a unique candidate—this richly detailed narrative would make an outstanding supplement for courses on state and local politics or on campaigns and elections."—Steven C. Wagner, St. Cloud State University

"Jesse Ventura's victory surprised and puzzled many. After reading this book, they may remain surprised—but a lot of the puzzle will be cleared up."—Sidney Verba

"A terrific account of the 1998 gubernatorial race, showing how Ventura came from nowhere to win the governorship."—Andrea Campbell


While many commentators and political scientists dismissed Jesse Ventura's rise to the governorship as a fluke of celebrity, Jacob Lentz shows that it was Minnesota's unique electoral rules, coupled with on-target campaign dynamics, that enabled a third-party candidate to reach office.

In this first complete account of Ventura's victory, Lentz draws on tantalizing details from the actual race to show that campaigns definitely do matter. Interviews with key players, exit polls, analyses of media coverage, and assessments of advertisements and debate performance also contribute to a compelling case study of U.S. politics at the state and local level.

Moving beyond old theories about structural barriers to fringe candidates, Electing Jesse Ventura makes it abundantly clear that third-party candidates can seize the favor of the U.S. electorate—and actually benefit from their lack of ties to the major parties—by emphasizing their pragmatism and independence.


Jacob Lentz, a native Minnesotan, is a scholar of political science.


  • Foreword—S. Verba.
  • Introduction: The Significance of Minnesota.
  • The 1998 Gubernatorial Race.
  • Analyzing Ventura's Victory.
  • Lessons for Political Theory.
  • Conclusion.