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Sunday, 27 October, 2002, 02:38 GMT
Race to replace tragic senator
democrat
Democrats mourn their candidate in crunch elections
Democrats are in a race against time to appoint a new candidate to replace Senator Paul Wellstone, who died in an air crash on Friday, as crucial mid-term elections loom.

Mr Wellstone was one of eight people who died, including his wife and daughter when their plane crashed in northern Minnesota.

wellstone
Wellstone was regarded as a strongly liberal Democrat
His death comes just two weeks before mid-term elections in which he was hoping for re-election to boost the Democrats' chances of retaining their one-vote majority in the Senate.

Now Democrats have until 1 November to name a new candidate for the poll on 5 November.

Before Mr Wellstone's death, they controlled the Senate by only one vote.

Thirty-four of the 100 seats are up for grabs and Mr Wellstone's was one the Democrats were counting on to hold onto their slim edge.

The Beechcraft King Air 200 plane was heading from St Paul to the Iron Range area in the north of the state when it came down seven miles (10 kms) east of the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, a Department of Transportation spokesman said.

Freezing rain

Mr Wellstone's wife, Sheila, 58, his daughter, Marcia, 33, three staff members and both pilots were also killed.

Map of Minnesota showing Minneapolis-St Paul and Eveleth
The weather at the time was reported to be cold, foggy and with a freezing rain.

The St Louis County sheriff's office said rescue personnel were on the scene.

A BBC Washington correspondent, Nick Bryant, said Senator Wellstone was one of the most liberal Democrats in the US Senate.

He said he was an energetic and feisty character who was one of the strongest opponents of a war against Iraq.

He is survived by two sons.

Election upset

The wrestling champion and former college professor cut an unlikely figure when he first ran for office in 1990.

The son of Russian immigrants, he had never held elective office before and launched an insurgent campaign by driving round Minnesota in a clapped-out bus.

His unlikely victory launched a 12-year Senate career, during which became known and respected as one of Washington's most energetic lawmakers.

He was trying to hold on to the seat in the face of a strenuous challenge from Norm Coleman, the former mayor of St Paul.

His death echoes that of Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, who was killed in a plane crash ahead of a senate election in 2000.

Carnahan remained on the ballot sheet and won the election. His senate seat was taken up by his wife, Jean.

 WATCH/LISTEN
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The BBC's Nick Bryant
"People in Washington are just mourning his death"

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25 Oct 02 | Americas
03 Nov 02 | Americas
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30 Oct 00 | Americas
01 Oct 02 | Americas
18 Oct 00 | Americas
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