Dean Malcolm Barkley (born August 31, 1950) is a politician who briefly served as a member of the United States Senate from Minnesota following the death of Paul Wellstone. A founder and chair of the Minnesota Reform Party (the predecessor of the Independence Party of Minnesota), he chaired Jesse Ventura's successful 1998 gubernatorial campaign; Ventura subsequently appointed him director of the state's Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning. Barkley ran as the Independence Party's candidate for the Senate in 2008, coming third to Al Franken and Norm Coleman.
Prior to Jesse Ventura
A founder of the Minnesota Reform Party, Barkley ran for the U.S. House in 1992, a run inspired by Ross Perot's presidential campaign. He was also a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994 and 1996.
Ventura and the United States Senate
Barkley was chairman of Jesse Ventura's successful gubernatorial campaign in 1998.
Barkley was appointed director of the Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning (known as Minnesota Planning) by Governor Ventura in January 1999. Ventura appointed Barkley to complete the Senate term of Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash on October 25, 2002. Barkley served until the 107th congress ended on January 3, 2003, when he was replaced by Norm Coleman, who had been elected on November 5, 2002 to the term lasting from 2003 to 2009. Ventura had previously stated that he would not appoint a replacement for Wellstone and preferred to wait for the election results. Ventura explained his subsequent reversal as being due to his disgust at Wellstone's memorial service, which he felt was used as a political rally for the Democratic Party. This was compounded by the fact that the established political parties refused to take the third-party candidate for the position seriously or to allow that person to participate in pre-election debates.
During his weeks as senator, Barkley helped pass legislation establishing a memorial for Wellstone and provided a pivotal vote in clearing the final passage of the Homeland Security Act.
After leaving office, Barkley did a stint in St. Paul as a state government lobbyist for a tobacco company, a casino, and the private prison industry. Beginning in April 2005, Barkley served as campaign director and chief strategist for Texas Independent Gubernatorial hopeful Kinky Friedman in 2006.
In a June 2007 interview with Minnesota Monitor, Barkley confirmed that he had been approached by Democrats in Minnesota's 6th congressional district about a possible challenge to Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. Barkley indicated he would consider running if the DFL would support him as an independent candidate.
As of May 2008 Barkley was working part-time as a bus driver for the elderly and disabled. He says he enjoys the job and sees it as a public service.
United States Senate election in Minnesota, 2008
Both Barkley and Ventura considered challenging Norm Coleman for reelection to the U.S. Senate seat that Barkley previously held. On July 14, 2008, Ventura announced that he would not seek election to the seat, prompting Barkley to announce his candidacy. Ventura supported Barkley and donated $500 to the campaign.
Despite entering the race late, Barkley was polling as high as 19% by October 1. The campaign also produced two statewide radio ads featuring Barkley and Ventura. Barkley, unlike many third party and independent candidates, was included in public debates with the major party nominees; the first of five three-way debates took place October 5. He received the endorsement of former U.S. Representative Tim Penny. Numerous polls showed that Barkley would have an impact on the outcome of the race. Barkley raised $163,358 for his campaign (less than 1% of each of his opponents' totals). He received over 435,000 votes or about 15% of the total, significantly affecting a race in which the eventual winner Al Franken and incumbent Norm Coleman were separated by only 312 votes.