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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Senator Wellstone Dies in Plane Accident

On Friday Oct. 25, the state of Minnesota suffered a loss when Democratic senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash. Ironically, he, along with his wife, daughter and campaigners, were en route to Eveleth/Virginia, MN, for a funeral. His plane crashed just miles away from the airport – the probable cause was ice on the wings. “Senator Wellstone did amazing things for Minnesota,” first-year Molly Lauck said. “Wellstone opposed the war in Iraq even if it was going to cost the election for him, and that is truly a great politician.”

Before his death, the competition with republican Norm Coleman was fierce – it was an extremely close race. If there is a Republican win in Minnesota, the Senate could change leadership. However, just before Wellstone’s death, he was gaining a small lead in the polls.

Under Minnesota law, if a political candidate dies up until four days before an election, the party can change the candidate on the ballot. The democrats appointed former Vice-President and Minnesota senator Walter Mondale. Mondale has a strong political background, including running for the presidency in 1984 against Ronald Reagan.

“I’m glad to hear that Mondale has been chosen as Wellstone’s successor, but I’m concerned about how all of this turmoil will affect the election itself,” said first-year Adam Hurt. “It had sounded for a while as though Wellstone had the upper hand over Coleman, but his death may have scared some voters away altogether.”

A memorial service for the late Senator was held Oct. 29. Wellstone’s sons, along with several Democrats and some of his campaigners, spoke, giving a moving, but controversial, service. The service started with mournful remembrances about his life and legacy, but soon changed when the treasurer of the Wellstone campaign, Rick Kahn, took the stage.

“The service had a lot of [Wellstone’s] fiery energy,” said Mary McDevitt, a democrat who attended the service. “I was surprised when [Kahn] started asking Republican Senators to vote for Wellstone. He really went over the top. It would’ve been all right after 10 minutes, but he just went overboard. Lots of people left. He sounded on the edge of hysteria.”

“I watched the whole service and was turned off at parts, especially when it turned into a political rally,” said Chris Erdahl, an independent Minnesotan voter. “I thought it went beyond the bounds of a memorial service. No one recapped [Wellstone’s] life events – they immediately focused on his votes. It crossed the line.”

Kahn urged all the Republican senators in the audience to support Wellstone. What began as a celebration of Wellstone’s ideas and life soon morphed into a political rally.

Governor Ventura was so appalled by this that he left early and threatened to appoint a non-Democrat to fill Wellstone’s place. He did find a replacement finally on Nov. 4 – advisor Dean Barkley, only after joking to the Minnesotan people that he might appoint an everyday citizen, for example a garbage man.

Even with Barkley appointed to finish Wellstone’s term, it was a tragedy for the state of Minnesota to lose a senator weeks before the election. “He has, for so long, been a force of integrity within the Senate that really had no match,” Hurt said.

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