- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

The death of Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone 11 days before the election threw a new level of uncertainty into the battle for control of the Senate and into a race that was one of the most competitive in the nation.
Both parties pulled their political advertisements in Minnesota. Republican challenger Norm Coleman immediately suspended his campaign after hearing of the deaths of Mr. Wellstone, his wife, daughter and five other persons in a plane crash.
"The people of Minnesota have experienced a terrible, unimaginable tragedy," said Mr. Coleman, former mayor of St. Paul. "The entire Wellstone family has been selfless, public servants who embodied the best of Minnesota."
In political terms, the tragedy created a huge question mark in a tight race. Mr. Wellstone was considered one of the Democrats' most vulnerable incumbents as the party clings to its one-seat majority in the Senate. Within hours of his death, the parties began arguing over whether state law requires Mr. Wellstone's name to be removed from the ballot.
Because Mr. Wellstone died within 16 days of an election, Minnesota law allows the state Democratic Party whose formal name is the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to appoint a replacement, and can do so up to four days prior to Election Day. Ballots are then to be reprinted with the name of the new candidate.
A state Democratic Party spokesman said he was confident that Democrats would be allowed to appoint a replacement. Among the names said to be under consideration to replace Mr. Wellstone are former Vice President Walter Mondale, state Attorney General Mike Hatch, state Auditor Judi Dutcher and state Trade Commissioner Rebecca Yanisch.
Lawyers for both parties were looking into state law yesterday to determine whether it required Democrats to appoint a replacement, or whether Democrats had the option of leaving Mr. Wellstone's name on the ballot.
Marc Elias, counsel for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the law is "unclear whether Senator Wellstone's name must be removed from the ballot." A spokesman for the Senate Republicans' campaign committee, Ginny Wolfe, said state law specifies that Mr. Wellstone's name must be stricken from the ballot. "This is mandatory. There will be supplemental ballots." She said Democrats must choose a replacement prior to Nov. 1.
Section 204B.13 of state election law states "a major political party has the authority to fill a vacancy" on the ballot. "If the vacancy in nomination occurs through the candidate's death or catastrophic illness, the nomination certificate must be filed within seven days after the vacancy in nomination occurs, but no later than four days before the general election."
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, an independent, declined to say whether he would appoint someone to serve only until Election Day. But he did remove himself from consideration.
"Unequivocally and absolutely, I will not appoint myself," Mr. Ventura said. "My days in public service will end at the end of my term. It will not be me, if I do go that route."
Mr. Mondale told reporters that Mr. Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, were tireless advocates for Minnesotans. "If Paul were here, he'd want us to think about one thing, and that is to carry on the fight that he led with such brilliance and courage over all of these years. Paul and Sheila, we intend to do that."
Dean Barkley, state planning director and an adviser to Mr. Ventura, said Judi Dutcher, the state auditor, "would be a good choice" for Democrats to replace Mr. Wellstone.
Mr. Wellstone's death evoked memories of the Missouri Senate race in 2000, in which Democratic candidate Gov. Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash three weeks before Election Day. Mr. Carnahan was elected posthumously over Sen. John Ashcroft, the Republican incumbent, and Mr. Carnahan's widow, Jean, was appointed to serve a two-year term. Mrs. Carnahan is in a tight contest for to retain her seat against Republican former Rep. Jim Talent.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said the nation had lost "the soul of the Senate."
"He was one of the most noble and courageous men I have ever known," Mr. Daschle said. "He was a gallant and passionate fighter, especially for the less fortunate."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide