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Republican senator loses to dead rival in Missouri

Jean Carnahan
Jean Carnahan  

(CNN) -- The late Gov. Mel Carnahan collected enough votes to beat out incumbent Republican Sen. John Ashcroft for the U.S. Senate seat from Missouri.

The incumbent Ashcroft was left running against a dead man after his opponent, the popular sitting governor, died in a plane crash on October 16. By that time, it was too late to remove Carnahan's name from the ballot.

No one had ever posthumously won election to the Senate, though voters on at least three occasions chose deceased candidates for the House.

Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson moved up to succeed Carnahan. Wilson said he would appoint Carnahan's widow, Jean, to the Senate seat should the deceased husband get more votes than Ashcroft.

Jean Carnahan said Tuesday night: "Abraham Lincoln never saw his nation made whole again. Susan B. Anthony never cast a vote. Martin Luther King Jr. never finished his mountaintop journey. My husband's journey has stopped short too, and for reasons we do not know or understand, the mantle has now fallen upon us. We remain heirs of a legacy."

"On this night I pledge to you -- rather let us pledge to each other -- we will never let the flame go out," she told supporters by speaker phone.

Ashcroft held the lead in polls until Carnahan's death threw the race into turmoil.

On election day, no one could predict how the sympathy factor would play at the polls. Jean Carnahan used ads to make emotional appeals for "the values and beliefs that Mel Carnahan wanted to take to the United States Senate."

Ashcroft was supported by two thirds of the voters who in exit polls said the federal budget surplus should be used to cut taxes. A majority of the voters who supported Carnahan said the surplus should go toward the national debt.

Republicans have vowed to fight Jean Carnahan's appointment on the grounds that a candidate must be an "inhabitant" of the state, a requirement a dead person can't fullfill. Her appointment must be approved by the Senate.

Both candidates were twice elected governor and had nine statewide victories among them.

The freshman Senator Ashcroft has a very conservative voting record. He favored term limits, was one of the first in the Senate to have his own web page, and was one of the first to say charges against Clinton might warrant impeachment.



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