In the Minnesota gubernatorial election of 1998, running as an Independent and member of the Reform Party, he was elected the 38th Governor of Minnesota and served from January 4, 1999 to January 6, 2003 without seeking a second term.
From September 11 1969 to September 10, 1975 he served in the United States Navy as a Navy UDT and was on active duty January 5 1970 through December 10 1973 during the Vietnam era. Ventura served with Underwater Demolition Team 12 during his time on active duty. According to the United States Naval Special Warfare Command policy, Ventura is entitled to use the title "SEAL", due to both his service in the UDT and SEAL teams, and his successful graduation from UDT-R (now BUD/S) training . He was awarded the National Defense Ribbon and the Vietnam Service Ribbon but was not in combat to qualify for the Combat Action Ribbon. In his autobiography, Ventura described SEAL training as the toughest experience of his life. "It's worse than anything you can imagine," he wrote, "You have to want it bad, very bad." Ventura always mentioned how much he respected his SEAL instructor Master Chief Petty Officer Terry "Mother" Moy. He asked Moy to stand by his side when he was sworn in as governor. He ended his inaugural address with the SEAL war cry "HOOYAH!" The Official United States Navy SEAL website contains his bio, and he is considered one of the SEAL's famous Alumni.
He returned to Minnesota and attended North Hennepin Community College in the mid-1970s at the same time he began weightlifting and wrestling. It was around this time that he briefly served as a bodyguard for The Rolling Stones. In 1975, Ventura married his wife Terry. The couple have two grown children: a son, Tyrel (b. 1980), and a daughter, Jade (b. 1984).
In 1975, Ventura made his debut in the Central States territory, before moving to the Pacific Northwest, where he wrestled for promoter Don Owen. During his stay in Portland, Oregon, he had notable feuds with Dutch Savage and Jimmy Snuka and won the Pacific Northwest Wrestling title twice (once from each wrestler), and the tag team title six times (twice each with Bull Ramos and "Playboy" Buddy Rose, and once each with Steve Strong and Jerry Oates). He later moved to his hometown promotion, the American Wrestling Association in Minnesota, teaming with Adrian Adonis as the "East-West Connection" in 1979. The duo won the AWA World Tag Team Championship on July 20 1980 on a forfeit when Verne Gagne, one-half of the tag team champions along with Mad Dog Vachon, failed to show up for a title defense in Denver, Colorado. The duo held the belts for nearly a year, losing to "The High Flyers" (Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell).
Shortly after losing the belts, the duo moved on to the World Wrestling Federation, where they were managed by "Classy" Freddie Blassie. Although the duo was unable to capture the WWF Tag Team Championship, both Adonis and Ventura became title contenders, each earning several title shots at champion Bob Backlund.
"The Body" continued to wrestle until September 1984 when blood clots in his lungs ended his in-ring career; it forced him to miss a title match against WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. Ventura claimed the blood clots were a result of his exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam. After a failed comeback bid, he began to do color commentary on television for "All-Star Wrestling" (replacing Angelo Mosca) and later "Superstars of Wrestling" (initially alongside Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino, and with McMahon after Sammartino's departure from the WWF in 1988), hosted his own talk segment on the WWF's "Superstars of Wrestling" called "The Body Shop", and did color commentary on radio for a few National Football League teams (among them, the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Ventura most notably co-hosted Saturday Night's Main Event with Vince McMahon and the first six WrestleManias (1985-1990) and most of the WWF's pay-per-views at the time with Gorilla Monsoon (the lone exception for Ventura being the first SummerSlam, in which Ventura served as the guest referee during the main event). Following a dispute with WWF Chairman Vince McMahon over him using his image for the video game company Sega, McMahon—who had a contract with rival company Nintendo at the time—released Ventura from the company in August 1990.
He also did commentary for World Championship Wrestling from 1992–94. His professional wrestling commentary style was an extension of his wrestling persona, as he was partial to the villains, which was something new and different at the time, but would still occasionally give credit where it was due, praising the athleticism of Dynamite Kid and Randy Savage(who was championed by Ventura for years, even when he was a face). The lone exception to this rule was the WrestleMania VI match between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. Since they were both crowd favorites, Ventura took a neutral position in his commentary; even praising Hogan's display of sportsmanship at the end of the match when he handed over the WWF Championship to the Warrior after he lost the title. The praise of Hogan's action was unusual for Ventura because he regularly rooted against Hogan during his matches. Hogan and Ventura were, at one point, close friends. Ventura, however, abruptly ended the friendship after he discovered, during his lawsuit against Vince McMahon, that Hogan was the one who had told Vince about Ventura's attempt to form a labor union in 1984.
He won the election in November 1998, narrowly (and unexpectedly) defeating the major-party candidates: St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman (Republican) and Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III (Democratic-Farmer-Labor).
After his victory, bumper stickers and T-shirts bearing the slogan "My governor can beat up your governor" appeared in Minnesota. Ventura circulated material stating his wish to be known in office as "Jesse 'The Mind'". The nickname stuck, but as a sarcastic and facetious way for opponents to highlight his frequent controversial remarks. Far more frequently, people continued to use "Jesse 'The Body'" or adapt his former stage name as "Jesse 'The Governing Body'."
Ventura went on to gain the highest approval rating of any governor in Minnesota history, with some polls ranking his public approval as high as 73 percent in 1999, despite controversial public comments. Citing undue media scrutiny into the lives of his family he chose not to run for reelection in 2002.
Later as governor, he came to support a unicameral (one-house) legislature, light rail public transport, property tax reform, gay rights, and abortion rights. While funding public school education generously, he opposed the teachers' union, and did not have a high regard for the public funding of higher-education institutions. Additionally, Ventura supported the use of medicinal marijuana, advocated a higher role for third parties in national politics, and favored the concept of instant-runoff voting.
Ventura was elected on a Reform party ticket, but he never received support from Ross Perot's Texas faction. When the Reform party was taken over by Pat Buchanan supporters before the presidential elections of 2000, Ventura left the party in February 2000, referring to it as 'hopelessly dysfunctional'. However, he maintained close ties to the Independence Party of Minnesota, which also broke from the Reform party around the same time.
During his wrestling days, Ventura was a user of anabolic steroids, used to increase his recovery. He admitted to this after retiring from competition, and went on to make public service announcements and appear in printed ads and on posters warning young people about the potential dangers and potential health risks of abusing steroids.
In his 1999 best-selling memoir I Ain't Got Time to Bleed, Ventura responded to the controversy sparked by these remarks by elaborating on his views concerning religion: "I’d like to clarify [my comments published in Playboy] about religious people being weak-minded. I didn’t mean all religious people. I don’t have any problem with the vast majority of religious folks. I count myself among them, more or less. But I believe because it makes sense to me, not because I think it can be proven. There are lots of people out there who think they know the truth about God and religion, but does anybody really know for sure? That’s why the founding fathers built freedom of religious belief into the structure of this nation, so that everybody could make up their minds for themselves. But I do have a problem with the people who think they have some right to try to impose their beliefs on others. I hate what the fundamentalist fanatics are doing to our country. It seems as though, if everybody doesn’t accept their version of reality, that somehow invalidates it for them. Everybody must believe the same things they do. That’s what I find weak and destructive.
Governor Ventura's office accidentally proclaimed October 13 to 19, 2002 as "Christian Heritage Week" in Minnesota.
Ventura was succeeded in his office by Republican Tim Pawlenty. He began a cable television show in October, 2003, on MSNBC called Jesse Ventura's America. The show was broadcast once a week, on Saturdays, unlike many MSNBC shows which are on five nights a week (this show was originally planned for five nights a week as well, but MSNBC executives changed their minds). At the time of its airing, Jesse Ventura's America was the only national television show filmed in Minnesota. Among his guests were Charles Barkley, Gray Davis, Arianna Huffington, Rob Kampia, and Kathy McKee. However, the show was soon canceled.
In 2004, fellow Navy veteran and Harvard graduate student Christopher Mora promoted the idea that the academic establishment had failed to reach out to citizens experienced in public service, but who did not fit the traditional idea of a politician. He successfully lobbied for the selection of Ventura, who started teaching a study group at Harvard University for the Spring 2004 semester as a visiting fellow at the Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics (IOP). His 90-minute study group focused on third party politics, campaign finance, the war on drugs, and other relevant political issues. Ventura scheduled multiple famous friends to appear for his seminars including Dean Barkley and Richard Marcinko. These presentations were among the highest attended in the history of the IOP.
On March 14, 2004, Ventura appeared as an honored guest at World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) WrestleMania XX as part of the "WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2004." Later in the evening he approached the ring to interview Donald Trump, who had a front row seat at the event. Trump affirmed that Ventura would receive his moral and financial support were he to ever reenter the world of politics. Alluding to the 2008 election, Ventura boldly announced that "In 2008, maybe we oughta put a wrestler in the White House".
On October 22, 2004, with Ventura by his side, former Maine Governor Angus King endorsed John Kerry for President at the Minnesota state capitol building. Ventura did not speak at the press conference. When prodded for a statement, Governor King responded, "He plans to vote for John Kerry, but he doesn't want to make a statement and subject himself to the tender mercies of the Minnesota press".
In November 2004, an advertisement began airing in California featuring Ventura. In it, Ventura voices his opposition to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's policies regarding Native American casinos. Like Hogan, Schwarzenegger at one point was also a close friend of Ventura as well, but since Schwarzenegger's victory in California, Ventura has not reportedly given him any praise; Schwarzenegger didn't even mention Ventura's name in an interview with Fox News in 2005, where reporter Chris Wallace asked him if he was quote "the next Jesse Ventura. Ventura is serving as an advisory board member for a new group called Operation Truth, a non-profit organization set up "to give voice to troops who served in Iraq." “The current use of the National Guard is wrong....These are men who did not sign up to go occupy foreign nations”.
In 2005, Ventura repeatedly discussed leaving the United States. In September 2005, Ventura announced on The Mike Malloy Show that he was leaving the U.S. and planned to "have an adventure". In late October 2005, he went on the The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch and reiterated that he was leaving the U.S. due to, among other things, censorship. He has since moved to Baja California, Mexico.
In September 2006, Ventura endorsed and campaigned with independent Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, and Independence Party of Minnesota 's gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson and Team Minnesota. He revealed he now spends much of his time surfing near his home in Mexico.
In April 2008, a book authored by Ventura, titled Don't Start the Revolution Without Me was released. In it, Ventura describes a hypothetical campaign in which he is a candidate for President of the United States in 2008, running as an independent. In an interview with the Associated Press at the time of the book's release, however, Ventura denied any plans for a presidential bid, stating that the scenario is only imaginary and not indicative of a "secret plan to run".
In the MinnPost.com, Ventura's agent, Steve Schwartz, describes the book thusly: "[Ventura is revealing] why he left politics and discussing the disastrous war in Iraq, why he sees our two-party system as corrupt, and what Fidel Castro told him about who was really behind the assassination of President Kennedy.
However, in an interview on CNN's The Situation Room on April 7, Ventura hinted that he was considering entering the race for the United States Senate seat now held by Norm Coleman, his Republican opponent in the 1998 Gubernatorial race. A poll commissioned by Twin Cities station Fox 9 put him at 24 percent, behind Al Franken at 32 percent and Norm Coleman at 39 percent in a hypothetical three-way race. However, Ventura announced on Larry King Live on July 14, 2008 that he would not run.
He spoke at former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's "Rally for the Republic", organized by the Campaign for Liberty, on September 2nd, 2008. At the event, Ventura implied a possible future run at the U.S. Presidency. Ventura stated before a live audience that "If America proves itself worthy, in 2012 we'll give them a race they'll never forget!
Ventura was interviewed on the Alex Jones radio show on April 2, 2008, on the Opie and Anthony on April 8, 2008, and on the The Howard Stern Show on May 21, 2008, discussing his views on 9/11 with the shows' hosts. He said that he felt that many unanswered questions remain, such as how World Trade Center Building 7, which was not struck by a plane, collapsed on the afternoon of 9/11 in a manner which resembled a well executed controlled demolition Ventura stated:
He also expressed bewilderment at how the Twin Towers appeared pulverized to dust and how they fell at virtually free-fall speed, when no other massive steel-framed buildings had ever collapsed in this manner due to fire before.
Jesse Ventura takes his complaints to the U.S. Capitol; He was there talking about why he wasn't allowed to film at JFK's grave and why we're really in Afghanistan.(NEWS)
Jul 21, 2010; Byline: KEVIN DIAZ; STAFF WRITER WASHINGTON - Jesse Ventura has found two new reasons not to trust the government, and he's...