What a strange and fascinating decade it has been in Minnesotapolitics. The new millennium began with Jesse Ventura (I), ourwrestler/governor, not living in the governor's mansion in St. Paul,but on his farm in Maple Grove.That is, when he wasn't appearing on David Letterman or Larry King or any oneof the scores of other media opportunities that presented themselves to the manwho defeated Norm Coleman (R) and Skip Humphrey (D) in the gubernatorial raceof 1998. Those were sunnier days. So much so that Governor Ventura, seeing nogray days on the horizon, refunded Minnesotans the state's rainy day fund – aneconomic umbrella that would have come in handy right about now. Seeking sunnier skies for himself, Governor Ventura did notseek reelection in 2002 and left it to state senator Roger Moe (D), former U.S.Representative, and former Democrat, Tim Penny (running as an Independent) andTim Pawlenty (R) to duke it out for the vacant governor's mansion. TimPawlenty, who played ice hockey in high school, would not only skate to anarrow victory once, but twice when he defeated Attorney General Mike Hatch (D)and Independence candidate PeterHutchinson in 2006. These days finds T-Paw in New Hampshire or on Sunday morning talk shows, perhapshoping for a national political hat-trick in 2012. Former news anchor, Rod Grams (R), and fiery liberal Paul Wellstone(D), made for a very odd couple representing Minnesotain the U.S. Senate at the start of 2000. Rod Grams would be defeated after oneterm by Mark Dayton (D), who would himself become a one-termer when heannounced he would not seek reelection. The possibility of reelection was mademore difficult for Dayton when heclosed his D.C. office in 2004 citing concern over a possible terrorist attack.Dayton's departure from thenational scene made room for Amy Klobuchar to become Minnesota'sfirst woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Klobuchar's victory also seemedto end the political career of conservative U.S. Representative Mark Kennedy (R). Love him or hate him, the state was stunned on October 25,2002 when Senator Wellstone died in a plane crash while stumping for reelectionin northern Minnesota. Some were morestunned, 11 days later, when the state elected Norm Coleman in a narrow victoryover former Vice-President Walter Mondale (D) who had replaced Wellstone onthat fall's ballot. In some ways, Mondale's defeat marked the end of an era in Minnesotapolitics. Wellstone's death would lead performer/writer, Al Franken(D), to return to his home state and launch a quixotic race for the U.S. Senate.The close margin of the election on November 4, 2008 would result in a manualrecount of the ballots with Franken finally being declared the victor and swornin as U.S. Senator on July 7, 2009. Liberal political pundits would have a heydaypointing out that Norm Coleman had lost two elections: one to a wrestler and oneto a comedian. If Minnesota'sgubernatorial and senatorial comings and goings weren't enough, ourrepresentation in the U.S. House has intrigued Minnesotans. It has occasionallycaptured the interest of the nation as well. Betty McCollum (D) became only the second woman in Minnesotahistory to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000. MicheleBachmann (R), in 2006, would become the third woman in the state to be electedto the U.S. Congress. McCollum and Bachmann would create the strangestbedfellows Minnesota had seen inour nation's capitol since the days when Rod Grams and Paul Wellstone walkedthe Senate halls together. (Well maybe not together, but at the same time.) Thesame year Minnesotans sent Bachmann to Washington, weelected the nation's first Muslim, and Minnesota'sfirst African American, Keith Ellison (D), to Congress. For political junkies, the past decade in Minnesotapolitics couldn't get much better than this. Then again, with Bachmann inCongress, Pawlenty considering a run for the presidency and seemingly half thestate running for governor, the next decade should give us plenty to talkabout. Let's hope it also gives us plenty to think about.