Only days before the Nov. 5 election, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, along with his wife, daughter, three campaign members and two pilots, died Friday morning when his airplane crashed in northeastern Minnesota.
Wellstone was a 58-year-old, two-term Democrat actively campaigning for re-election against Republican Norm Coleman in Minnesota. The effects of Wellstone’s death, however, spread much further than the North Star State, California Senator Barbara Boxer said. Boxer praised Wellstone’s contribution to his country.
“I am devastated by the death of my dear friend and colleague Paul Wellstone. His passion and commitment for those without a voice will be forever recognized in Senate history,” Boxer said. “I will miss his powerful voice and his friendship.”
Twenty-second district congresswoman Lois Capps also said Wellstone will be greatly missed among peers.
“Words cannot describe my shock and sadness at the death of Senator Wellstone, his wife Sheila, his daughter Marcia, his staff members and the plane’s crew,” she said. “The people of Minnesota have lost a fighter for their unique concerns. … My heart and prayers go out to the families of all who were lost.”
The late senator’s eldest son publicly announced on Saturday that he is asking 74-year-old former Vice President Walter Mondale to replace his father on the Nov. 5 ballot. One source who has spoken to Mondale said he is likely to accept.
“Based on the family’s request to him, it is highly likely he will run,” a source said on condition of anonymity. “It would be surprising if the vice president did not run.”
Minnesota Democrats will meet on Wednesday and officially pick the replacement candidate for Wellstone. If they succeed in drafting Mondale, it will give the Democratic Party in Minnesota a strong candidate to promote in he the six-day campaign against Coleman, a former St. Paul mayor who entered the race at the request of President Bush. Residents of Minnesota had anticipated a close race between Coleman and the late Wellstone.
“Walter Mondale is a good man,” Coleman said Sunday, declining to comment further on his potential opponent. “There will be a campaign, but now is not the time.”
– The Associated Press also contributed to this story.