ST. PAUL (AP) -- Christine Jax, the outspoken chief of Minnesota's education department, said Monday she will join the Independence Party and seek its endorsement for governor.
Jax is the first big name to declare an IP candidacy since Gov. Jesse Ventura announced his political retirement last week. Former Democratic congressman Tim Penny is expected to say this week whether he'll heed Ventura's call and run for the IP's endorsement.
"I am something different than what's out there," Jax said. "I am not a white male politician."
To join the Independence Party, Jax is leaving the DFL Party. This is her first run for office, although she has campaigned before for candidates in northeast Minneapolis, including her husband, state Rep. Len Biernat. He said he won't leave the DFL but will support his wife personally.
"A lot of people are calling and wanting to help," Biernat said. "So there's a groundswell here that maybe I didn't expect."
About 250 Independence Party delegates plan to endorse a candidate July 13 at the state convention in St. Cloud. Bill Dahn, a frequent candidate who does little campaigning, has announced he will run.
The IP candidate will face Democrat Roger Moe, Republican Tim Pawlenty and the Green Party's Ken Pentel in the general election.
Jax said she has informed Ventura of her intentions and is seeking an opinion on whether she should take a leave from her post as commissioner of xthe Department of Children, Families and Learning to facilitate the bid.
Ventura, who has criticized people who run for office while drawing a state paycheck, had no immediate comment, a spokesman said.
IP Chairman Jack Uldrich said Penny told him Sunday that a Jax candidacy would not affect his decision. Penny said Friday he was leaning toward running.
"We are happy to have her aboard," Uldrich said of Jax. "She'll get a fair hearing from our delegates. She'll get a fair opportunity to present herself and her credentials."
Jax is among the more battle-scarred figures in Ventura's administration. Her agency oversees $8.7 billion in school aid, about a third of Minnesota's general fund, and administers graduation standards and statewide tests.
Jax has often angered the education establishment in her 3 1/2 years. Teachers and school administrators have criticized various Jax decisions,
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