- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Democrats yesterday reached out for a candidate to replace Sen. Paul Wellstone on the November ballot, with elder statesman Walter Mondale emerging as the favorite.
Meanwhile, federal investigators searched the wreckage of Mr. Wellstone's plane to determine why it crashed.
Mr. Mondale, the former vice president and Minnesota senator, did not comment yesterday. But one Democratic source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Mondale had indicated some interest.
Two Democratic sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat and head of the party's campaign committee, had reached out to Mr. Mondale. Democratic sources said prominent labor leaders had expressed interest in Mr. Mondale as well.
"If he says yes, it's pretty much over," said Democratic consultant Wy Spano.
Mr. Wellstone, his wife, his daughter and five others died when their plane went down in freezing rain Friday in northern Minnesota as they headed to a funeral.
Only the burned tail section of the private plane was still intact, Carol Carmody, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said yesterday. Everything else was destroyed.
"It's a complicated site, very marshy, lots of trees," Mrs. Carmody said. "It takes us time to sort through the evidence."
It appeared that the engines were powered when the plane went down, but it is likely to take weeks if not months to determine why the chartered twin-engine Beech King Air A100 crashed, Mrs. Carmody said. She said there was no cockpit voice recorder.
The poor weather, including the potential for ice buildup on the wings, and the limited instrument landing system at the Eveleth airport may have contributed to the crash, aviation specialists said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Mike Erlandson said officials won't decide who will replace Mr. Wellstone on the ballot until after the family has decided on funeral arrangements. Several party officials also said a decision would wait until Mr. Wellstone's sons, Paul Jr., 37, and Mark, 30, could be contacted to see whether either of them had an interest in entering politics.
The list of potential replacements includes several politicians a generation younger than the 74-year-old Mr. Mondale. Among them are his son, Ted Mondale, and Skip Humphrey, the son of another former vice president, Hubert Humphrey, but all have been tarnished politically, having lost statewide races in recent years.
Also mentioned as a potential replacement candidate is Alan Page, a member of the state Supreme Court and a former Minnesota Vikings star. He showed no interest in a U.S. Senate campaign when he was approached two years ago.
While Democrats considered that question, Gov. Jesse Ventura met with legal advisers to discuss appointing a temporary replacement for Mr. Wellstone to finish the final months of the senator second term. He said he is likely to appoint a Democrat.
"To me that's only fair," Mr. Ventura said. He said Minnesotans elected a Democrat for a term that runs through January, so the seat should stay in the party's hands for now. He also said he'd favor someone who doesn't plan to run for the office.
"I don't want it to become political," he said.
Mr. Ventura said he is concerned about leaving the seat open until election results are certified.
"What if something happens? We have to have a senator," he said. "If terrorism hits and they call a special session, we have to have someone to go out there."
The process to nominate a replacement candidate for the ballot will take at least three days for the required notice to about 1,000 state central committee members of the date of a nominating meeting.
Other potential replacements for Mr. Wellstone include former Secretary of State Joan Growe and former Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman, the son of former Minnesota Gov. Orville Freeman.
Separate groups of state officials were working yesterday on the legalities of the election.
It appeared that it would not be legal to leave Mr. Wellstone's name on the ballot because under Minnesota law, a death creates a vacancy on a ballot. The candidate's party can nominate someone to fill that spot, but that candidate would have to fulfill certain requirements, including being alive, Attorney General Mike Hatch said.

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