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Mondale to Replace Wellstone on Democratic Ballot - 2002-10-31

The Minnesota Democratic Party has chosen former U.S. Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale to replace the late Senator Paul Wellstone on Tuesday's ballot. Mr. Wellstone died in a plane crash last Friday.

More than 800 Minnesota Democratic Party delegates enthusiastically welcomed Walter Mondale back into politics, Wednesday night, as he accepted their selection of him to take Mr. Wellstone's place in the U.S. Senate race. "Tonight, our campaign begins," Mr. Mondale said. "I start it with a pledge to you. I will be your voice and I will be Paul Wellstone's voice for decency and hope and better lives."

Mr. Mondale's name was mentioned as a replacement for Mr. Wellstone within hours of the senator's death, Friday, in a plane crash. Mr. Wellstone's wife, daughter and several campaign aides were also killed in the crash.

Mr. Mondale has represented Minnesota in the United States Senate before, from 1964 through 1976, when Jimmy Carter chose him as his vice presidential running mate. In 1984, Mr. Mondale ran for president, himself, losing in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.

Early public-opinion polls suggest Mr. Mondale has a lead over his Republican opponent, former Saint Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. Mr. Coleman says he realizes running against a well-loved political figure like Walter Mondale will not be easy. "This is an uphill battle," he said. "It is like running against Mount Rushmore. On the other hand, the problems, the challenges, hopes and opportunities are all real."

Mr. Coleman had suspended his campaigning after Mr. Wellstone's death, but he was back on the campaign trail, Wednesday, flying in his small plane to towns along the Canadian border.

Republicans and Democrats in Minnesota are squabbling over what was billed as a memorial service to Paul Wellstone, Tuesday night in Minneapolis. The three-hour gathering resembled 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!"

Republicans have asked television stations that carried the memorial service live to give their party an equal amount of free airtime before Tuesday's election. Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was so upset at the tone of the Wellstone memorial service that he left it early and said he might appoint an Independent, instead of a Democrat, to fill out the remaining few weeks of Mr. Wellstone's term. He later backed off from that threat, but says he is keeping his options open in choosing a replacement.