ST. PAUL -- Regardless of who Minnesota voters elect Tuesday in the Senate race, Gov. Jesse Ventura has immediate influence on the congressional power balance with his interim replacement for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Ventura, a third-party governor, said Friday that he would wait until after the election to name a temporary successor, if he fills the seat at all. He said he hasn't ruled out appointing the election winner or picking someone with no political background.
Meanwhile, Ventura's office and the state attorney general are looking at laws and Senate rules to determine how long the appointed senator would serve. Although officials initially said the person would serve until election results are certified in mid-November, some now believe the term would run into January.
Depending on the political leaning of Ventura's choice, the stand-in senator could put Republicans in control and effectively shift the agenda when Congress meets in an expected post-election session. The Senate is split 49-49 among Republicans and Democrats, with one independent, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who is allied with the Democrats.
A day after Wellstone's death, Ventura said he was inclined to choose a Democrat because he didn't want to disrupt the Senate power balance. Upset by the political tone of a Wellstone memorial service, Ventura now says he may pick someone without regard to political affiliation.
"This person could become a very big power broker out there," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "When you look at the makeup of the Senate there isn't a whole lot of wiggle room."
Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., made a public plea for Ventura "choose wisely and carefully."
"I expect this person will be besieged by both political parties and the White House and everyone else," Dayton said.
The winner of Missouri's tight Senate race will take office immediately because Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan was serving in place of her husband, who like Wellstone died in a plane crash close to the election. Alaska is also in play, where Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski is running for governor. If he wins, he wouldn't be able to name his successor until after his inauguration Dec. 2.
During the interview, Ventura thumbed through a two-inch stack of resumes from a broad cross section of people who want the Senate job, including doctors, educators, retirees and military servicemen. By Friday afternoon, 500 applications had come in and Ventura's staff was sifting through 1,800 new e-emails.
"Some of the resumes are quite impressive. These are not necessarily crackpots," he said. "If we're truly a citizen government, aren't all of us qualified if we meet the criteria?"
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