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Mondale looks like replacement, Wellstone son supportive

ST. PAUL -- Almost everyone expects Walter Mondale's name to replace Sen. Paul Wellstone's on Minnesota's Nov. 5 ballot. "Mr. Mondale certainly is a very broad sentimental choice," said Mike Erlandson, chairman of the Minnesot...

ST. PAUL -- Almost everyone expects Walter Mondale's name to replace Sen. Paul Wellstone's on Minnesota's Nov. 5 ballot.

"Mr. Mondale certainly is a very broad sentimental choice," said Mike Erlandson, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

Erlandson Sunday said that Wellstone's family wants the former vice president, United States senator and ambassador to Japan to be the party's choice to replace Wellstone, who died in a Friday airplane crash.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., stopped short of endorsing Mondale, but gave credence to the expectation that Mondale has all but been crowned by Democrats.

"Vice President Mondale is a hero of mine," said Daschle, in the Twin Cities for a family wedding. "He is a person who has given great strength to this state and to this country. I think there is little doubt the people of Minnesota and the people of this country could unite behind his leadership if that were to happen."


Even though all signs pointed to Mondale being the party's nominee, Erlandson said that Mondale will not talk about the matter until after a Tuesday night memorial service for Wellstone, his wife and daughter and three campaign aides killed in the crash.

The chairman Sunday announced he has scheduled a 7 p.m. Wednesday DFL State Central Committee meeting at the Historic State Theater in Minneapolis to pick someone to replace Wellstone.

Erlandson said he will place one name in nomination and he does not expect anyone else to make nominations. However, he added, the process will be open and others may enter nominations if they wish.

Mondale, who turns 75 in January, is Minnesota's senior Democratic statesman and the White House apparently fears his name being on the ballot.

The Washington Post reports that a top White House official said Mondale would be tough, if not impossible, to beat.

President Bush picked former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman to challenge Wellstone in this year's election, and the two were running a tight race. Bush, who before Wellstone's death was expected to campaign for Coleman this week, is tying to shift the balance of power in the Senate to his Republican Party.

With Wellstone's death, the Senate is divided 49-49 between the two major parties, with one independent usually voting with Democrats.

Mondale's friends say he probably will enter the race.


"The odds are pretty good that he will do it," the Post quoted Albert Eisele as saying.

Eisele, who was Mondale's vice presidential press secretary and current editor of The Hill newspaper, said Mondale could decide to run for a reason other than simply to represent Minnesota: "This also presents an opportunity for him to take the sting out of his defeat in 1984."

Mondale carried only Minnesota and Washington, D.C., in his unsuccessful attempt to upset Ronald Reagan in the presidential race.

Wellstone's death and the expectation that Mondale will replace him on the ballot was topic No. 1 on Sunday morning's television news shows. Many said Coleman probably can't win, due to the combination of sympathy for Wellstone and Minnesotans' love of Mondale.

"I don't know how you run a campaign ... without appearing insensitive," MSNBC analyst Craig Crawford said. "I think it is maybe impossible."

Coleman, who was flying in the same northeastern Minnesota area where Wellstone's chartered plane crashed Friday, said he is not ready to resume campaigning.

"There will be a vigorous campaign, but not now, not now," he said. "Folks have to bury the dead."

Coleman did not say when he might resume his campaign. Most Minnesota campaigns have suspended activity until after Tuesday night's service.


Wednesday night's DFL meeting probably will involve more than just the 875 delegates and alternates, Erlandson said. All statewide candidates, as well as other Democrats, are expected.

While Erlandson said DFLers are concentrating on grieving, not politics, he has told a party lawyer to prepare a letter to Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, a Republican, expressing concerns about how she plans to replace Wellstone's name on the ballot.

For instance, he said, Kiffmeyer's instructions appear to allow voters to pick more than one Senate candidate. Also, Erlandson said Kiffmeyer should not allow absentee ballots to be mailed to voters now, with Wellstone's name on them.

Minnesota law does not allow a dead person to be elected, although some other states do leave candidates' names on the ballot after they have died.

"People want to know their votes will be counted," Erlandson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

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