Senator Wellstone Dies in Plane Crash

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Gov. Scott McCallum ordered that flags fly at half-staff beginning Friday at 2 p.m. and ending at sundown Saturday out of respect for U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota.

Sen. Paul Wellstone, an outspoken liberal Democrat locked in a re-election battle considered key to control of the Senate, was killed in a plane crash Friday in northern Minnesota along with his wife, daughter and five others.

The twin-engine private plane went down in freezing rain and light snow near the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, about 175 miles north of Minneapolis. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

Wellstone, a 58-year-old former college professor and one of the foremost liberals on Capitol Hill, was on his way to the funeral of the father of a state lawmaker.

"Senator Wellstone faithfully and honorably served the people of Minnesota and the United States," Gov. McCallum said. "I am deeply saddened to hear this news, and our hearts go out to the senator's surviving family and all our neighbors in Minnesota."

"It's just terrible. Say a prayer," said Lisa Pattni, an aide who was at the crash site.

All eight people aboard the 11-seat King Air A-100 were killed, said Greg Martin, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Campaign officials confirmed the victims also included Wellstone's wife, Sheila, and daughter, Marcia; three campaign staff members; and two pilots.

Wellstone's death just 11 days before Election Day threw the battle for the Senate into uncharted territory. Before Friday, Democrats held control by a single seat.

State officials were researching whether Wellstone's name would remain on the ballot, or whether independent Gov. Jesse Ventura or state Democrats could appoint a replacement.

State law allows for the governor to fill a vacant Senate seat, but allows for the party to appoint a replacement in the event of a death of a nominee. State Democratic Party spokesman Bill Amberg said he was confident the party would be allowed to offer a replacement.

State Democratic Party chairman Mike Erlandson said Wellstone for years had been "the heartbeat" of the party.

"He took pride every day in fighting on behalf of the people of Minnesota," Erlandson said.

Liberal to the end, Wellstone cast his vote earlier this month against legislation to authorize the use of force in Iraq — the only Democrat in a competitive race to go against Bush on the issue.

Wellstone also had two sons, David and Mark, and six grandchildren.

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Paul Wellstone

Born: July 21, 1944

Education: Bachelor's (1965) and doctorate (1969) degree in political science, University of North Carolina

Experience: Political science professor, Carleton College, Northfield, Minn. 1969-90, U.S. senator, 1991-2002

Personal: Born to Russian immigrants Leon and Minnie Wellstone, raised in Arlington, Va. Married Sheila Ison in 1963. Three children, David, Marcia, and Mark; six grandchildren.

Source: Associated Press

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