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Minnesota's interim senator 'shocked'


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ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) -- Minnesota's newly appointed interim senator said he was "shocked" when Gov. Jesse Ventura named him Monday to temporarily replace the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Ventura named Dean Barkley, his former campaign manager and Minnesota's state planning director, to represent the state in a lame-duck Senate session. Barkley said he would be sworn in when Congress reconvenes November 12.

Barkley said he learned of his appointment little more than an hour before Ventura announced it.

"Steven Bosacker, the chief of staff, called me and told me I'd better wear a suit because the governor wants me to represent the state of Minnesota," Barkley told CNN's "Inside Politics."

"I was quite shocked. I had not sought the position. I'm glad Governor Ventura has the confidence in me."

Barkley was Minnesota's Reform Party candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1996, taking 7 percent of the vote, which earned Reform major-party status. Ventura was elected on the Reform ticket in 1998, with Barkley as his campaign manager.

Both have since split with the party, which fragmented in 2000. Ventura now leads the Independence Party in Minnesota.

His announcement was timed to coincide with the debate between Democratic Senate candidate Walter Mondale and Republican Norm Coleman. The debate excluded independent challenger Jim Moore because public opinion polls indicated he did not have the required level of support.

Ventura angrily accused Democrats, Republicans and state news outlets of conspiring "to limit the hard-earned rights of ordinary citizens to rise up and compete for elected office without having to be a Democrat or Republican."

Under Minnesota law, Barkley would serve only until November 19, when Tuesday's election results are certified, but Ventura said Barkley might serve until January because of Senate rules that he said take precedence over state law.

"I'm sure there will be some lawyers who will decide that issue," Barkley said.

Barkley dismissed questions about whether his appointment was a "stunt" by the flamboyant Ventura. "People will say what they say," he said.

"I am proud that he thinks I can go and represent the interests of the state of Minnesota," Barkley said. "I'll do the best I can, and hopefully people won't think it's a stunt when I'm done."

Wellstone died in an October 25 plane crash in northern Minnesota. Ventura has criticized the memorial service held for Wellstone last week, saying it became a partisan rally.

"I will never ever attend another funeral unless it's held in a church, where I think even they won't be able to politicize it," he said.

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