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Barkley, U.S. Senate candidate, wants to fix 'broken' system

Dean Barkley is fed up with the political games and partisan bickering in Washington, D.C.

That's why he's throwing his hat in the ring as an Independence candidate for U.S. Senate, a hotly contested race that also includes Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.

Barkley stopped at the Echo Press office last week to talk about his campaign.

Although his name may not be as well known as the major party candidates, Barkley is used to playing the underdog role - and winning. He was the chair for the Independence Party when Jesse Ventura "shocked the world" by winning the Minnesota governor's race in 1998.

Barkley also has experience in the Senate. When Paul Wellstone died in a place crash in October of 2002, Ventura appointed him to fill out the term, which expired the following January.

Barkley still has ties with Ventura, who also considered but declined a Senate run. Ventura serves as the honorary chair of Barkley's campaign.

When Ventura was in office, Barkley was appointed director of the Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning (known as Minnesota Planning).

Barkley has been in political races before. As an early activist in the Minnesota Reform Party, he ran for the U.S. House in 1992 and the U.S. Senate in 1994 and 1996. Before entering government, Barkley practiced law and ran several small businesses.

Barkley doesn't see himself as running against Coleman and Franken - he said he holds nothing against them personally. It's the gridlock and politics-as-usual that he opposes.

"We have a broken two-party system that has failed this country," Barkley said. "We have a do-nothing Congress controlled by big money and special interests."

Barkley is particularly concerned about the national debt, which, he noted, has grown from $3 trillion to $10 trillion since Coleman took office.

Runaway spending and a trade imbalance are making things worse.

"We're spending one-third more than we're taking in every year," said Barkley. "There is a cost to all this and we're just starting to feel it."

The nation is struggling in other areas as well, Barkley said. Two key government programs - Medicare and Social Security are hitting the rocks. Costs of health care and prescription drugs are going through the roof.

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar continues to fall in value while gas prices soar, Barkley said.

If elected, one of the first things Barkley would try to do is open up Medicare, which is now only available to those 65 and older, to all age groups. This would spark competition with private systems and reduce costs, he said.

As an independent candidate who isn't forced to follow the party line, Barkley believes he would be the most effective senator who could leverage votes and trigger change.

"My campaign is all about giving voters another option, a choice," he said. "We can make the system work."

Barkley recently launched a Web site to explain his positions on the issues. It's