By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN The only thing certain about this fall’s United States Senate election in Minnesota is that Dean Barkley didn’t win.
That means Barkley has to return to work, and he has reestablished his law practice. The attorney will be offering free legal consultations in Delano at Star West Chevrolet-Honda Sports Friday, Jan. 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
No stranger to the Delano area, Barkley was born in Annandale, and practiced law in Loretto for about 10 years with the firm Palmer, Hanjani, and Barkley before diving into politics.
Barkley has known Star West owner John Tackaberry for some time, and when the two of them were talking two weeks ago, they felt this would be a great way to meet some potential new clients.
“I know John real well, and we were just talking. I said I’ve started up the practice again after running for Senate,” Barkley said over the phone last week. The two men decided Barkley should offer free legal consulting services.
“He’s just a good guy,” Tackaberry said. “I think Dean represents the common guy. People helping people.”
Tackaberry has known Barkley for some time, and said the two have mutual connections through the Hennepin County Mounted Patrol.
“What a good way to meet new potential clients,” Barkley said. “Whatever legal problem they have, we can discuss free of charge.”
Barkley, who has called Plymouth his home for more than 30 years, is opening his practice in Bloomington, and previously has practiced in his hometown of Annandale, Edina, and Loretto.
“It’s something I can help people out with. I’ve been doing it most of my adult life,” Barkley said.
The key word in that sentence is “most.” Barkley took some time off from practicing law in the early 1990s to make a run for a United States House seat in 1992, two runs for United States Senate in 1994 and 1996, and play a huge part in founding the Reform Party of Minnesota, which is now known as the Independence Party of Minnesota. He also was the chairman of Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s successful campaign for Minnesota governor in 1998.
That year, Ventura the candidate was in Delano as the grand marshal of the Fourth of July parade.
“We were in both the Delano parade and Annandale parade,” Barkley recalled. “Jesse was the grand marshal of Delano parade. I remember about half way through, Arne Palmer, who was in the car with us, turned (to Ventura and lieutenant governor candidate Mae Schunk) and said, ‘you’re going to win this thing.’ It was a great response in Delano.”
Palmer, a Greenfield resident, said his son was a partner with Barkley in the Loretto law firm, recalled the moment, and feels it was the beginning of the history that was about to be made.
“The people loved him,” Palmer said of Ventura. “Dean and I were in the convertible. Jesse got out and walked, and the people just surrounded him, just loved him. I told Jesse at that time I said, ‘Jesse, we can win this thing.’ We rocked and rolled.”
Barkley then recalled the drive from Delano to Annandale that Fourth of July after the Delano parade was a bit harrowing especially for Schunk.
“We only had 20 minutes to get there,” Barkley said with a laugh. “It was one of the wildest rides that Mae’s ever had she never had such a wild ride.”
Luckily, being Ventura was the grand marshal of the Delano parade, he was in the beginning of the parade route, and in Annandale, he was slotted toward the end, so the timing worked out for both parades.
“My knowledge of the backroads of Wright County came in handy that day,” Barkley said.
Once elected governor, Ventura appointed Barkley as his director of the office of strategic and long range planning in 1999.
When Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash Oct. 25, 2002, Ventura appointed Barkley to fill the remaining couple months of Wellstone’s Senate term.
At the time of his death, Wellstone was in the final stages of a campaign to keep the seat against challenger Norm Coleman, who won the election against former Vice President Walter Mondale, who was tapped by the DFL to replace Wellstone on the ballot after his death.
“I was like everyone else,” Barkley said, wondering who Ventura was going to appoint to the Senate seat for the remainder of Wellstone’s term. Barkley said Ventura had discussed with him that he had to appoint somebody the weekend before he made announcement.
“He said he was going to appoint Joe the garbage man - this was well before Joe the plumber,” Barkley recalled with a laugh. “We were campaigning with Tim Penny all weekend, and he never mentioned once he was thinking of appointing me.”
That following Monday morning, Ventura had a press conference scheduled at 10 a.m. to appoint someone to the seat, and Barkley said he received a phone call from WCCO political reporter Erik Eskola, asking him if he knew who Ventura was going to appoint to the seat.
“He thought I’d know who it was,” Barkley said. “I had no clue. I didn’t know it was going to be me.”
After Eskola’s phone call, curiosity got the best of Barkley, so he decided to go to St. Paul for the press conference to see for himself who Ventura would appoint. About an hour before the press conference when Barkley was on the road to the capitol, he got paged from a state staffer.
“I returned the page, and he asked me if I was wearing a suit. I told him, ‘no,’ and he said ‘well, get one on. You’re going to be a senator in an hour,’” Barkley recalled. “I got there five minutes before the press conference. Jesse stuck his bald head out the door and said, ‘hahaha Barkley now you’re going to know what it’s like to be me.’”
Though his stay in the United States Senate was short-lived 62 days to be exact, with eight of those days being in actual session Barkley said it was an enjoyable experience, and he’s proud of his record. He cast a critical vote in the Homeland Security Bill, which he said was a huge reorganization of the federal government in regard to terrorism and safety.
“We negotiated and ended up being the swing votes to pass that bill,” Barkley said.
He also negotiated a welfare to work program, and was able to save about half a billion dollars in fines and penalties. Barkley also helped secure funds for the Wellstone Center in St. Paul, which is an immigration relocation center.
“It was quite good,” Barkley said. “I’m proud of my record and time in the Senate.”
His reason for getting into politics to begin with is simple.
“My anger with the two-party system and its failure to deal with our problems,” Barkley said. While that same passion is still evident in his voice, he said he’ll continue to help out and be involved but don’t expect to see his name on a ballot again anytime soon.
“I’m not going to run for office again,” Barkley said. “I’ve had enough of that I’ve grown out of politics.”
His most recent attempt to reclaim a seat in the United States Senate seat came up short last fall when he ran as a third party candidate against incumbent Norm Coleman and DFL challenger Al Franken, but Barkley is proud of his efforts and those of his supporters.
“It certainly was an interesting election to be involved in,” Barkley said. “I think I did fairly well considering the amount of time we had. Getting over 15 percent (of the vote) wasn’t bad.”
In that race between Coleman, Franken, and Barkley, more than 400,000 votes were cast in Barkley’s favor, but he came in a distant third to the other two candidates. Coleman and Franken remain in court, and Minnesota still doesn’t have a second senator on the floor in Washington DC.
As for Barkley’s thoughts on the drawn-out battle for the Senate seat, he said he feels there are some questions that need to be answered.
“I think our state statues and laws are working well,” he said. “I think there are some legitimate questions the courts have to look at. Were there more ballots cast than voters in precincts? Was there double-counting? I think those need to be answered before we can put this to rest. We can wait another month.”
Knowing he is out of the race himself, which of the two is Barkley rooting for?
“Nobody,” Barkley said. “I stayed out of it. Whoever loses can blame me, I guess.”
Despite not heading back to Washington DC as a senator-elect, Barkley will always have the title of former United States Senator under his belt, and he will use that Tuesday at the inauguration of president-elect Barack Obama. As a former senator, he received several tickets to the inauguration.
“My daughter wants to go,” Barkley said. “We’re planning on driving out Sunday. I’ll be taking a road trip, but I’ll be back by Friday.”
He modestly feels his run for Senate last fall helped keep the Independence party alive, and said he hopes it can continue to be an alternative to the two-party system.
“Unfortunately, it hasn’t changed much in the past 16 years,” Barkley admitted, but also said he’s hopeful Obama is going to be different and can bring a new way of governing to Washington DC. What would be one piece of advice Barkley would give the president-elect?
“Keep lobbyists out of your administration,” Barkley said. “Don’t talk to them. Do what’s right not what the people who gave you money want you to do.”
Dean Barkley will offer free legal advice in Delano
Former United States Senator Dean Barkley, an attorney, will be in Delano at Star West Chevrolet-Honda Friday, Jan. 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. offering free legal advice
“There’s so many people out there that can’t afford a dentist let alone a lawyer,” commented longtime friend Arnold Palmer from Greenfield. “I think that’s a grand idea of Dean to donate the time to come in here and help people who don’t know all the answers.”
To set up an appointment with Barkley, call Star West at (763) 972-2984.