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Wellstone's son urges Mondale to run

From Jennifer Feinberg
CNN

Walter Mondale
Walter Mondale

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WALTER "FRITZ" MONDALE
Born: January 5, 1928 in Celyon, Minnesota
Family: Wife Joan (married 1955), children Theodore, Eleanore and William 
Career: Minnesota attorney general, 1960-64; Appointed to the Senate to fill the seat vacated by Vice President Hubert Humphrey, 1965; re-elected 1966 and 1972; vice president, 1977-1981; Democratic presidential candidate, 1984; ambassador to Japan, 1993-1996.
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- Former Vice President Walter Mondale is the top choice for Minnesota Democrats to replace Sen. Paul Wellstone on November's ballot and has the Wellstone family's blessing, the state party chairman said Sunday.

Wellstone, D-Minnesota, was killed in a plane crash Friday along with his wife and daughter, three campaign aides and two pilots. (Full story)

His oldest son, David Wellstone, met with Mondale on Saturday and asked him to take his father's place in the November 5 election, sources close to the family told CNN.

"The choice of the Wellstone family is Mr. Mondale. Mondale said if the Democratic Party would ask him to run, he would absolutely consider that," said Mike Erlandson, the chairman of Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democrats are known in Minnesota.

Mondale has not indicated publicly whether he will replace Wellstone on the ballot.

The 74-year-old Mondale represented Minnesota in the Senate from 1964-76 before becoming Jimmy Carter's vice president. Replacing Wellstone with Mondale would return a storied Minnesota political name to the ballot, although the former vice president has not run for statewide office since the 1970s.

Wellstone, 58, was locked in a tight re-election battle with Republican Norm Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul. Under state law, the party has until Thursday afternoon to replace him.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic whip, said Mondale would carry on Wellstone's liberal tradition in Washington.

"He's a person who would look forward to doing the things that Paul Wellstone wanted to do -- do something about health care reform, take care of the underprivileged by passing a minimum wage," Reid, D-Nevada, told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "He would do something about prescription drugs. He would do things that simply need to be done."

Minnesota Democrats will hold an open meeting to nominate a new candidate Wednesday night. About 875 delegates, alternates, DFL candidates and elected officials will vote on a new standard-bearer, Erlandson said.

"I want to make it clear to people that we want to make this decision as a Democratic family together, just as Sen. Wellstone would want it to be," he said.

Wellstone was neck-and-neck with Coleman in a race Republicans consider key in their efforts to regain control of the Senate. Coleman said Sunday that Minnesotans "need time" to sort out the consequences of Wellstone's death.

"There's so much talk going on in Washington right now. We just need time. I think Minnesota needs time. Certainly, the families of those who lost loved ones need time," he said.

"There is an election that will be held on November 5, and I'm going to say this: It's just an election," Coleman added. "My wife and I have lost two children. I know and we know what real loss is, and everything else is very relative after that."

After serving in the Senate, Mondale went on to become the Democratic nominee for president in 1984 and lost in a landslide to Ronald Reagan. Later, under the Clinton administration, he served as U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Wellstone's death erased the Democrats' control of the Senate, leaving both parties with 49 seats. Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont bolted from the Republican party last year and declared himself an Independent, but he caucuses with the Democrats.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he expected the Minnesota race to remain tight despite Wellstone's death and Mondale's possible candidacy.

"I'm not sure who is going to win, but I served with Hubert Humphrey, I served with Walter Mondale -- both very liberal senators, both fine people ... But I also think the world of Mayor Coleman, and I suspect that it's going to still be a race right down to the wire," Hatch said.

The White House recruited Coleman to challenge Wellstone, and President Bush was in Minnesota earlier this month to campaign on his behalf. Bush administration officials saw the Minnesota race as one of the best opportunities for the GOP to win back control of the Senate.

The White House had no formal comment on the possibility of Mondale entering the race, with a senior administration official telling CNN, "Now is not the time to focus on politics." But administration officials concede that of all the possible candidates, Mondale would be the most troublesome because of his enormous popularity in the state.

Bush advisers say Coleman still "represents the future of Minnesota," but they now concede the entire outlook for the race has changed.

-- CNN Producers Dana Bash and Jennifer Feinberg contributed to this report.



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