- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

ST. PAUL, Minn. Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Walter F. Mondale clashed over abortion and other issues in their only Senate campaign debate yesterday, while an angry Minnesota governor appointed a fellow independent to fill Sen. Paul Wellstone's seat for now.
In the unusually timed 10 a.m. Central Time debate, Mr. Mondale strongly suggested that his Democrat-turned-Republican opponent cannot be trusted by the voters. He accused Mr. Coleman of favoring tax cuts for the rich and pounded him on his pro-life views on abortion.
"The question is, who do you trust? Who can be a true and independent voice for Minnesota?" asked the former vice president in his concluding statement to the audience in a small Minnesota Public Radio theater. "He's been on many sides over the years and in many different political parties," he told reporters after the debate.
Mr. Coleman said Mr. Mondale's liberal attacks were rooted in the past and underscored the need to "change the partisan tone that has led to gridlock" in the Senate.
"I offered a vision for the future, he offered attacks from the past. We need to move beyond the antagonistic tone the vice president brought to the table today," he said.
Mr. Mondale shot back: "What you're doing is sticking with the right wing and pretending to change the tone."
At the same time, just a few blocks away, Mr. Ventura named a political adviser, Independence Party strategist Dean M. Barkley, to fill Mr. Wellstone's seat.
In an interview yesterday in his office in the state Capitol, Mr. Ventura said that he had considered appointing whoever won today's election. But he said that he abruptly changed his mind when James Moore, the Independence Party's Senate candidate, was excluded from yesterday's debate.
"I did it because I was so outraged that they didn't allow Jim Moore to debate. I was strongly contemplating picking whoever wins the election, but they left me no other alternative. It offended me," the governor said.
Mr. Ventura made it clear that he loathed both major-party candidates, but he seemed to single out Mr. Mondale for much of his wrath.
"He says he's for the little guy, but he's an elitist who sits on the boards of a lot of big corporations, and his law firm has defended the tobacco companies," Mr. Ventura said.
Mr. Ventura's move leaves control of the Senate up in the air. The two parties now have 49 members each, with two independents. Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, the Senate's other independent, caucuses with the Democrats.
Mr. Barkley said he hasn't decided which party he will support for control of the Senate.
"I plan on going to Washington, hopefully this week, and get my thoughts about me and start talking to the people in Washington. And I'll make up my mind once I hear what both sides have to say," he said, adding that his top legislative priority will be passing the dozen appropriation bills that Congress has not yet approved.
Both Mr. Jeffords and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, called Mr. Barkley yesterday to court the newest senator.
It is not clear how long Mr. Barkley will serve, an especially important matter since a lame-duck session of Congress is planned for later this month.
A Minnesota attorney general's opinion said the winner of the Senate election will replace Mr. Barkley once the winner is certified in mid-November. But Senate rules suggest Mr. Barkley's term will run into early January, until the new senators arrive.
The dramatic high point in yesterday's Mondale-Coleman debate came when Mr. Mondale who polls show is running poorly among men, but has an edge among women attacked Mr. Coleman's position on abortion.
"You have been an arbitrary right-to-lifer. I am not, and that is one of the big issues that divides us," Mr. Mondale said.
"I would take exception I'll use a kind word to your description of being arbitrary. My wife and I have had two children who died at very young ages. I have a very profound respect for the value of life. It's not arbitrary. But even on that issue, I think we can and should find common ground," Mr. Coleman said.
Mr. Coleman also went on the offensive a number of times, noting the many corporate boards on which Mr. Mondale sat until he resigned from those posts last week.
He also reminded Mr. Mondale of the last time he was in elective office in the Carter administration, "when we had 21 percent interest rates and double-digit inflation."
"This election is about the future," Mr. Mondale replied, borrowing a stock Coleman campaign line. "It is not about 1980."
The contrast in the way the two men are campaigning in the final hours before today's vote could not be sharper.
Mr. Mondale, 74, had relatively few events on his schedule after the debate: A noon rally in Minneapolis, a get-out-the-vote event in St. Paul and meetings with campaign workers.
Mr. Coleman, by contrast, went on to two rallies in Mankato, one with former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and then began a nonstop, all-night, 16-city bus tour of the state that will end today at his election headquarters in Bloomington.

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