The Independence Party of Minnesota (often abbreviated MNIP, IP or IPM), formerly the Reform Party of Minnesota, is the third largest political party in Minnesota, behind the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) and Republican Party. It is the political party of former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura (1999–2003), and endorsed former US Representative Tim Penny as a candidate for the 2002 gubernatorial election. Since January 26, 2008 the party has been the state affiliate of the Independence Party of America. The party has fielded candidates for most statewide races and has been considered a major party by the state since 1994, in addition to the DFL and Republican parties
The state party carried that name until it disaffiliated from the national party in 2000 due to factional dissent and the increasing influence of Pat Buchanan. The party immediately changed its name back to Independence Party. Buchanan, his most influential opponents having left the party, went on to become the Reform Party's candidate for president.
On 2004's Super Tuesday, March 2, the party held caucuses around the state along with Minnesota's other three parties. Since the organization had no national party affiliation, it merely ran a straw poll to gauge the opinions of members with regard to the available presidential candidates in the 2004 election. For the poll, the group used instant-runoff voting, a voting method that has been gaining interest in the state. Additionally, the party had several fairly progressive agenda items to vote on. For a bit of levity, there was also a vote on the mascot to use for the party. Three top possibilities were the bison, hawk, and white buffalo. (According to the IP's website, "The Independence Party...will decide on a party mascot at its convention this year. These results serve to guide to that choice, rather than decide the matter." Technology was also involved in the IPM's caucusing, as it used the Internet to conduct a two-day online “virtual caucus” for people who were unable to attend the evening of Super Tuesday.
On March 5, 2004, the party announced that the presidential winner was John Edwards, ironically a candidate who had privately circulated his decision to withdraw shortly before IP members voted. The Super Tuesday ballot was probably the first state-wide experiment in instant-runoff voting. The Bison won the mascot vote, out-polling the nearest competitors by a 19% margin.
In May, 2005, Peter Hutchinson, who was Minnesota Finance Commissioner in the Rudy Perpich administration, announced that he was planning to seek the Independence Party's nomination for governor in the 2006 election. Hutchinson finished 3rd of 6 earning 141,735 votes for 6.4% of the total vote.
As of 2006, the party has had two members in the Minnesota Senate. Bob Lessard of International Falls, joined the party during the Ventura administration. Lessard had been a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party before he switched parties in 2001. He did not seek re-election in 2002. Also in the 2002 election, Sheila Kiscaden of Rochester was turned down for endorsement for re-election to the Minnesota Senate by the Republican party. She joined the IP and won re-election, giving the Independence Party its first victory in a Minnesota legislative election. She joined the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in January 2006. There have been no members of the IPM in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
In the 2006 elections IP 5th district congressional candidate Tammy Lee received 51,456 votes for 21.01% of the total vote Lee's strong showing resulted in part from her unusually strong (for third parties) fundraising, Lee raised $228,938 for her run.
In May 2008 a draft Dean Barkley movement started at web site www.draftdeanbarkley.com to encourage the former senator to run again.