ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Jesse Ventura, the former pro wrestler who stunned the political world when he was elected in 1998, announced today that one term is enough.
"I am not seeking re-election right now," Ventura said in an interview broadcast live on Minnesota Public Radio. "I will not run again."
Ventura said that his heart was no longer in the job, and that he had come to his decision a few weeks ago before leaving on a trade mission to China. But he also said he was tired of attacks on his family, and his announcement came amid reports that his 22-year-old son, Tyrel, used the governor's mansion for weekend parties.
"I will always protect my family first," he said.
If Ventura doesn't change his mind before a July 16 filing deadline, it almost certainly means the end of Minnesota's three-way government. He was elected as a member of the Reform Party, though he later split for a new party, the Independence Party.
While Ventura's approval rating had dipped in recent months, he still would have been a formidable opponent. His departure leaves Democrat Roger Moe, the longtime state senator, and Republican Tim Pawlenty, the House majority leader, as the leading gubernatorial candidates.
Ventura never had more than one Independence Party member in the Legislature, and his 3 1/2 years were marked by scuffles with Democrats, Republicans and reporters, whom he branded "jackals."
He presided over four legislative sessions, including three in which the state's budget had a surplus and he directed refunds paid in what he dubbed "Jesse Checks." In 2001, he and Republicans crafted sweeping reforms of the state's property tax.
But last year's recession pushed the state's budget into deficit, and legislators in the most recent session rejected Ventura's remedy that included tax increases and spending cuts.
The policy clashes were coupled with attacks on Ventura's personality and outside activities, including a TV announcing job with the short-lived XFL football league.
Most recently, former employees at the governor's mansion criticized Ventura's son for having parties and making a mess at the facility.
"It's difficult to do these public service jobs when you know your family could be assassinated by the media at any point, deservedly or undeservedly," Ventura said.
Earlier Tuesday, John Wodele, a spokesman for the governor, acknowledged some property damage at the mansion that required "minor repairs." He said the conditions at the mansion, closed in April as an economy move, were exaggerated by disgruntled ex-employees.
But Charlie Weaver, Ventura's public safety commissioner, confirmed that state troopers were concerned about drinking and did take licenses from young visitors to the mansion.
Tyrel Ventura declined to comment.
Ventura didn't say what he would do in private life. He said he was "honored" to have served the people of Minnesota.
"I'm kind of like Che Guevera," he said. "I lead the revolution but at some point I turn it over to someone else."
First lady Terry Ventura, appearing separately Tuesday at a charity event, declined comment on the governor's announcement.
In November 1998, Ventura beat the two major party candidates: Hubert Humphrey III, the Democratic attorney general and son of the late Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Republican St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman.
Ventura got 37 percent of the vote in the three-way race; his only previous political experience was as mayor of the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park.
The scowling, bald-headed former Navy SEAL had gained the nickname "The Body" during his pro wrestling career. His imposing physique and colorful personality led to roles in several movies, including "Predator" and "The Running Man," both with Arnold Schwarzenegger.