updated 9/15/2006 5:47:16 PM ET 2006-09-15T21:47:16

After years in self-imposed political exile, Jesse Ventura is back in the fray - partly by choice and partly by chance.

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Ventura, who didn't run for a second term as governor four years ago, has kept his distance from Minnesota politics since leaving office in 2003. Now, he's starring in some out-of-the-ordinary radio ads promoting Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson.

Meanwhile, GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty reached back to an old Ventura budget plan to attack his Democratic rival, Mike Hatch, as a threat to raise taxes.

The return
On Friday, Ventura's voice rumbled over the radio in two Hutchinson ads.

In one, an announcer talks about a mock incumbent who "permanently balanced the budget, made taxes and fees go away, caused Democrats and Republicans to fall madly in love. Under his leadership, crime was eliminated, pollution disappeared and every motorist was given their own lane."

2006 key races

Then a gruff Ventura cuts in:

"Minnesota ... can you hear me? Come in. I interrupt this broadcast to remind you that career politicians will say anything to get re-elected. In '98 you chose an independent. It's time to do it again. Let's stop the B.S. and move Minnesota forward with honesty and common sense."

Bringing back the past
The ad is airing on FM stations in the Twin Cities and the St. Cloud area, covering a fast-growing suburban corridor where Ventura did well in his 1998 upset win. Hutchinson's campaign didn't say how much it was spending to run them for two weeks, but an official said the campaign's entire ad budget will be less than $500,000 between now and November.

Hutchinson said he hopes the ads remind people how they felt when they spurned the Republican and DFL candidates then.

"It encourages them to think again about claiming their independence," he said.

Pawlenty's ad makes no specific mention of Ventura. But it keys off a proposal Ventura put forward in 2002 to erase a projected budget shortfall.

Deficit strategy
The plan included some spending cuts but also called for, among other things, a higher gas tax, new sales taxes on auto repairs and legal services and a 29-cent bump in the cigarette tax. The tax hikes never went through.

Three weeks ago, Hatch spoke favorably about Ventura's approach while responding to a reporter's question about how he would have handled an ensuing deficit of $4.5 billion.

Pawlenty seized on those remarks to back up a new television commercial, airing around the state for a week.

"Mike Hatch says he would have done it differently - with 13 new tax increases," the governor says in the ad, where he claims credit for keeping a lid on state taxes and proposes a cap on local property taxes.

Hatch argued his comments were taken out of context. By putting off a budget fix, Hatch said, the problem grew exponentially worse and led to higher state fees, college tuition, local property taxes and per-pack cigarette costs.

"He's trying to make it out into something I'm proposing or had proposed at that time," Hatch said. "He's desperate. The guy is down and he's desperate. This just shows the guy will lie about anything he can.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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