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Mondale Pledges He'll Run for US Senate - 2002-10-31

Former U.S. Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale says he will run again for Senate in place of the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. The Minnesota Democratic Party is expected to make Mr. Mondale's candidacy official when it meets Wednesday night.

Mr. Mondale made the announcement Wednesday morning. He wrote a letter to the state Democratic Party chairman saying, "It is with a heavy heart but a great hope for the future that I will pick up the campaign where Paul Wellstone left off." Mr. Wellstone was killed Friday in a plane crash that also took the lives of his wife, daughter and several campaign workers.

Minnesota Democrats have been hoping Mr. Mondale would accept their invitation to run. The party sees the former vice president as its best chance of defeating Republican challenger Norm Coleman, and retaining Mr. Wellstone's senate seat. Because the United States Senate is nearly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, both parties have an interest in the Minnesota race.

The two parties are also squabbling over what was billed as a memorial service to Paul Wellstone Tuesday night in Minneapolis. The gathering took on the air of a Democratic Party rally. Mr. Wellstone's son, Mark, was among the speakers.

"Mom, you are right. We will win! We will win! We will win!," he exclaimed.

Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, an Independent, says he was upset by the political tone of the memorial service, and thinks Democrats should hang their heads in shame. The head of Minnesota's Republican Party, Ron Eibensteiner, took issue with the fact that the service was broadcast on local television stations.

"What should have been a time of healing and uniting turned into a divisive three-hour display that has created a great political imbalance only days away from the election," he said.

He is asking television stations in Minnesota to consider giving Republicans a block of free airtime in the coming days. The senate race could be a close one. A poll conducted by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper suggests Mr. Mondale would win slightly more votes than Mr. Coleman.