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Senator Paul Wellstone Dies in Plane Crash - 2002-10-26


U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who died in a plane crash Friday, was one of the most liberal members of the Senate.

During his 12 years in the Senate, Mr. passionately fought for the rights of average Americans.

He pressed for expanded health care benefits and labor protections for American workers. He fought efforts to overhaul bankruptcy laws, calling it a "special interest" give-away that would hurt the poor. "The Republicans want some of the largest corporations in the country to pay zero in taxes, but they refuse to help the people who are flat on their back, out of work," said Senator Wellstone.

In one of his last actions in the Senate this month, Mr. Wellstone voted against a resolution authorizing President Bush to use force if necessary against Iraq. He said he favored a more multilateral approach. "Only a broad coalition of nations, united to disarm Saddam, while preserving our war on terror, can succeed," he said. "Our response will be far more effective if Saddam sees the whole world arrayed against him."

Although Mr. Wellstone often opposed Mr. Bush's policies, the President praised the Senator as 'a man of deep convictions'.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle called Mr. Wellstone 'the soul of the Senate' and 'one of the most noble and courageous men' he knows.

Mr. Wellstone was first elected to the Senate in 1990, defeating incumbent Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz in what was widely considered a major political upset.

Earlier this year he announced he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but he said it would not stop his campaign for a third Senate term.

The 58-year-old Senator, the son of Russian immigrants and a former professor, was locked in a tight race against Republican challenger Norm Coleman.

It is not clear how his death will impact the November 5 elections and control of the Senate, in which Democrats had a one-seat majority. State officials are deciding whether Mr. Wellstone's name would remain on the ballot.

Mr. Wellstone was killed along with his wife, a daughter, and three staff members when his plane, a twin-engine turboprop, went down in northeastern Minnesota in freezing rain.

Two pilots also died in this crash.