- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

The family of Sen. Paul Wellstone wants former Vice President Walter F. Mondale to replace the late Minnesota senator on the Nov. 5 ballot as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat, a top state party official said yesterday.
Party leaders have said they wanted to give Mr. Wellstone's sons a chance to express their views about who should replace their father before a substitute is selected.
"The Wellstone sons met with the [former] vice president to ask him to consider replacing their father on the ballot," Mike Erlandson, chairman of Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said on ABC's "This Week."
The Associated Press said one son, David Wellstone, met Saturday with Mr. Mondale, 74, at Mr. Mondale's law office in St. Paul and formally asked him to seek Mr. Wellstone's Senate seat.
A source close to Mr. Mondale, who told the AP that he has talked to Mr. Mondale, said he is likely to accept the offer.
"Based on the family's request to him, it's highly likely he will run. It would be surprising if the vice president did not run," said the source, who added that Mr. Mondale will not announce his decision until after a public memorial for Mr. Wellstone is held in Minneapolis tomorrow evening.
On Fox, Mr. Erlandson said it "would certainly be a hard thing" for Mr. Mondale "to say no" if he is asked to run.
Wolf Blitzer, host of CNN's "Late Edition," played a tape of some remarks by Mr. Mondale that sounded as if he's seriously considering accepting the party draft and running.
"I think 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. And, Paul and Sheila, we intend to do that," Mr. Mondale says on the tape.
Mr. Mondale has made no explicit public comment on running.
Mr. Erlandson, who appeared on "This Week" and "Fox News Sunday," insisted that no final decision on a Wellstone replacement has been made and that no announcement will come until Wednesday or Thursday.
"There's a lot of things that certainly point directly to the former vice president. But he's made no official statement, and we have taken no official action at the party," Mr. Erlandson said on ABC.
But he acknowledged that it's "very important" that Mr. Mondale has the support of the Wellstone family.
"There is certainly a lot of internal sentiment, as well as public sentiment that Walter Mondale be that choice," Mr. Erlandson told ABC. Consequently, party leaders are "leaning" toward Mr. Mondale, he said.
"We also know here in Minnesota that the balance of power in the United States Senate hinges on Minnesota's election Nov. 5," Mr. Erlandson said. "Power could change as soon as the next day, when the results are official."
Under Minnesota law, Mr. Wellstone's name must be removed from the ballot. The Democratic Party has until Thursday to name a replacement.
Mr. Wellstone's Republican opponent, Norm Coleman, appeared on ABC's "This Week" but declined to talk politics.
"We have to give the grieving process a little more time," he said. Besides Mr. Wellstone, his wife, his daughter and five other persons died in the plane crash Friday.
"I've been through the loss of children," Mr. Coleman said. "This is politics. It can wait a few days."
Mr. Coleman called Mr. Mondale a "good man" and said that "there will be a vigorous campaign but not yet."
Republicans in Minnesota are already fashioning a campaign message, based on the presumption that Mr. Mondale will be Mr. Coleman's Democratic opponent.
"The voters will have a decision between the past and the future. Walter Mondale is clearly the past," said Bill Walsh, a spokesman for the state Republican Party.
In his multiple talk show appearances yesterday, Mr. Erlandson was asked about a situation involving absentee ballots in Minnesota that Democrats say hurts them and helps the Republicans.
At issue are about 100,000 absentee ballots that have been sent out, which pit Mr. Wellstone against Mr. Coleman. Those indicating votes for Mr. Wellstone will not be counted, while those supporting Mr. Coleman will be. Voters who chose Mr. Wellstone on absentee ballots can recast their votes on election day.
"We are certainly looking into that," Mr. Erlandson said on Fox. "I actually find it a little bit outrageous that Minnesota's secretary of state was continuing to send out and preparing to send out ballots with Mr. Wellstone's name on them" Saturday, the day after Mr. Wellstone was killed.
"There's no question the ones that have been mailed out should be dealt with appropriately. But nothing else should be going out until Democrats put forward" a new nominee, Mr. Erlandson said.
Senate Democratic Whip Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, were asked on CNN's "Late Edition" to reflect on a race between Mr. Coleman and Mr. Mondale.
Mr. Reid took a shot at Mr. Coleman "for switching parties to run" and for being "against everything Paul was for."
But Mr. Hatch said Mr. Coleman is "very popular" and "appeals to both Democrats and Republicans." Mr. Hatch said he "suspects it's going to be a race right down to the wire."
A number of top national Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Mr. Reid and several other senators, pushed a Mondale candidacy on yesterday's talk shows.
"It would be the greatest tribute to Paul Wellstone's memory if somebody of the stature and purpose and statesmanship and honor of Walter Mondale would pick up the torch," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, on "Fox News Sunday."
The White House had handpicked Mr. Coleman, a former Democrat and former mayor of St. Paul, as the kind of Republican who could win in liberal Minnesota, the only state Ronald Reagan never carried. Mr. Wellstone has been widely characterized in the days since his death as a "liberal's liberal."

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