Mondale accepts nomination for Senate
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- Former Vice President Walter Mondale accepted the Minnesota Democratic Party's nomination Wednesday and will run a five-day race to hold on to the Senate seat of Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash last week.
"Tonight, our campaign begins," said Mondale at a meeting in Minneapolis of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democrats are known in Minnesota. "I will be your voice and I will be Paul Wellstone's voice for decency and hope and better lives."
When four delegates put Mondale's name forward, the crowd seconded the motion with a standing ovation and chanting, "We want Fritz."
"I understand that by a close vote, you have nominated me to run for the U.S. Senate, and I want you to know I gladly accept the nomination," Mondale said to thunderous applause.
Just before Mondale took the podium, the crowd chanted, "We will win! We will win!"
It took the former vice president and senator several minutes to make his way through the crowd. Speakers blared the U2 song "Beautiful Day" as Mondale stopped to greet people and shake hands.
Citing his experience in the Senate -- 12 years as senator from 1964 to 1976, four years as president of the chamber when he was Jimmy Carter's vice president from 1977 to 1981 -- the 74-year-old Mondale said he would hit the ground running if he is elected November 5 and would carry on Wellstone's ideals.
Mondale pledged to work on the issues of better education, tax restrictions, corporate responsibility, pension protection, lower cost prescription drugs, a woman's right to choose to have an abortion and environmental protection.
"I will fight, as I always have, for minorities of all races and religions and sexual orientation who deserve to share in the fullness of American life," Mondale said.
He also addressed the current debate on enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq, saying the United States must have a strong military but must also depend on its friends and allies.
"Iraq is dangerous, but going it alone is dangerous, too," he said. "We have a United Nations, let's use it. We have allies, let's enlist them. Let's back our demands for inspections with force if necessary, but let's multiply that force with the strength of a united world."
"That's the course that the first President Bush took in the Gulf War, and that's where Paul Wellstone stood, and that's where I will stand in the United States Senate," Mondale said.
With Wellstone's death, the Senate is split 49-49 between Democrats and Republicans, with one independent.
In the race seen as crucial for Democrats if they are to regain control of the Senate, Mondale faces Republican Norm Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul, who was recruited by the White House.
Mondale last sought statewide office in 1972. He will enter the race with an 8-point lead over Coleman, according to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll published Wednesday, but Coleman argues he can better represent Minnesota in a "post-9/11 world."
"This is not about age," Coleman, 53, told CNN earlier Wednesday. "This is about vision. This is about the future. This is about how you're going to lead us into tomorrow, and that's what the people of Minnesota will have to decide." (More on Coleman campaign)
Should Mondale win next Tuesday, he would be the first former vice president to return to the Senate since fellow Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey did it in 1970.
Mondale lost his own bid for the presidency in 1984 by a landslide to popular incumbent Ronald Reagan. In addition to that 49-state loss, Mondale's campaign stands out in history books because his of running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first woman on a major party ticket.
Wellstone, 58, was killed in a plane crash Friday along with his wife and daughter, three campaign aides and two pilots. He was seeking a third term in a neck-and-neck race against Coleman.
Nearly half of Wellstone's Senate colleagues turned out Tuesday night in Minneapolis for the memorial service for Wellstone, an event that was marked by enthusiastic applause for Mondale -- and boos for Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi.
There were complaints that the televised memorial was more of a political rally and some Republicans are calling for equal time from television stations that broadcast the event. (Reactions to memorial)
DFL officials have asked Minnesota's Supreme Court to order state officials to provide new absentee ballots for anyone who already had cast a ballot for Wellstone.
Some ballots with Wellstone's name on them were sent out even after the senator's death, DFL Chairman Mike Erlandson told reporters.
The DFL petition, filed Tuesday, also asks the court to order state authorities to allow write-in votes, with proper directions; and to provide supplemental ballots that can be read by electronic scanners rather than counted by hand.
-- CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.