Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, known as a rough and tumble liberal, was killed in a plane crash in northern Minnesota Oct. 25 along with his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and five others, campaign officials said.
Wellstone was noted for his fiesty individuality, often opposing his own party's positions. He was against free trade, fought NAFTA and GATT and cited the loss of American jobs in frequent editorials and while appearing on television. In the late 90s, he asked for an investigation of oil refiners for practices that kept fuel prices artificially high.
Wellstone, 58, had been in the final days of a battle for re-election in a race that could determine control of the Senate. The twin-engine plane went down in freezing rain and light snow near the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, about 175 miles north of Minneapolis.
He was on his way to the funeral of the father of a state lawmaker.
Colin McGinnis, the senator's chief of staff, told TV crews:
"This morning Senator Paul Wellstone, Sheila Wellstone, and Marcia Wellstone... along with Will McLaughlin, Tom Lapic, and Mary McEvoy of our campaign staff were traveling on a plane in northern MN. The FAA indicates that there were an additional two individuals on the plane. We understand both were pilots. The Department of Transportation has confirmed that the identification number on the tail of the plane that went down southeast of Eveleth, MN matched the serial number of Senator Wellstone's plane. The reports are that there were no survivors."
In political terms, it was unclear whether Wellstone's name will remain on the ballot with Election Day less than two weeks away. Wellstone was up against Republican Norm Coleman, a former mayor of St. Paul and President Bush's choice to challenge the two-term incumbent.
Two years ago, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash three weeks before Election Day while running for the Senate. Carnahan's name remained on the ballot and he beat Republican Sen. John Ashcroft. Carnahan's widow, Jean, was appointed to serve in his place and is now seeking election to a full term against Republican Jim Talent.
The senator is survived by two sons and eight grandchildren.