- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone fought for his liberal beliefs and his constituents with the tenacity he first showed as a college wrestler, winning the hearts and respect of many Minnesotans and the enmity of others.
He was in the homestretch of a tough re-election fight when he was killed in a plane crash along with his wife, daughter and five others. Yesterday, a day after the crash, black ribbons adorned "Wellstone," campaign signs across the state, and flowers piled up at campaign offices.
Minnesotans commonly embrace unusual political characters, particularly an underdog or outspoken ideologue. Mr. Wellstone was both.
"Everybody who knew him has a clear picture of him, bouncing around, jabbing, saying his piece, standing up for the underdog and the unspoken-for," said Garrison Keillor, the writer and satirist who hosts the "Prairie Home Companion" radio show. "A lot of people voted for him who didn't really agree with him; they just liked him so much."
Mr. Wellstone routinely angered business executives and stalwart Republicans and won't be remembered as fondly as his personal hero, Hubert H. Humphrey, the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis and civil rights champion who became senator and vice president.
"Humphrey was much broader in his relationships," said John Turner, retired chairman of ReliaStar Financial Corp. of Minneapolis, now ING North America Insurance Corp. "He related to the business community. He would occasionally take positions on issues that I could agree with from a business standpoint. I have to be honest and say I can't remember a single issue on which Senator Wellstone and I agreed."
In 1991 Mr. Wellstone grilled then-President George H. W. Bush about the unfolding Persian Gulf war at a reception for new members of Congress. Mr. Bush turned to aides and asked: "Who is this [expletive]?"
In the Senate Mr. Wellstone routinely tacked amendments onto colleagues' bills and threatened to filibuster legislation, such as attempts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, that he strongly disliked.
He squabbled with Minnesota's other iconic political figure, Gov. Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler. Two years ago, both threatened to run for the other's job and bickered over which one of them was the "real" wrestler.
His Republican rival in the current campaign, former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, often said Mr. Wellstone was too liberal even for Minnesota and couldn't get things done because of his extreme views.
Mr. Wellstone believed he could be both passionate and effective.
"It is not one or the other," he said. "The goal is to do well for people. You do it two ways. You push the envelope and I do. And then you also try and get everything you can get done based upon the political boundaries you have."
Despite his criticism of Mr. Wellstone, Mr. Coleman recalled that on his "worst day" as mayor, when two police officers were killed, Mr. Wellstone called to encourage him. "I'll never forget that," Mr. Coleman said.
Mr. Wellstone mastered constituent service, smoothing the naturalization process for Hmong refugees who flocked to Minnesota and assisting veterans and victims of floods and tornados. He kept a monthly meeting with Minneapolis residents at a drugstore, where the owner provided a circle of folding chairs.

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