MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Doug Friedline, who managed pro wrestler Jesse Ventura’s long-shot but winning campaign for governor of Minnesota, has died. He was 49.

Friedline, who had run this year’s Florida gubernatorial campaign for Reform Party candidate Max Linn, was found dead Friday at an apartment in Treasure Island, Fla., said Linn campaign spokeswoman Liz McCallum. She said he had serious heart problems and had complained of faintness for several days.

McCallum said Friedline knew his candidates stood little chance of winning. “He was a champion for the underdog,” she said. Linn finished with about 2 percent of the vote.

“I couldn’t have won my election to governor without Doug,” Ventura said in a statement Saturday. “He was a tireless campaigner and a passionate campaign manager for me and other independent candidates throughout the country.”

Ventura’s 1998 campaign directed by Friedline won a surprise victory over established candidates – Republican St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, now a U.S. senator, and Democrat Hubert “Skip” Humphrey III, son of the former vice president.

The campaign played up Ventura’s gruff persona with ads that showed the sometimes flamboyant wrestler – he donned a feather boa at his inaugural and sang a duet with rocker Warren Zevon – as an outsider. One showed a Ventura action figure fighting off “Evil Special Interest Man.”

Ventura won 37 percent of the vote to Coleman’s 34 percent and Humphrey’s 28 percent.

Friedline, a Minnesota native, went on to manage campaigns for other long-shot candidates, including independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Schluter in New Jersey in 2001.

AP-ES-11-11-06 1443EST

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