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Senate race back in high gear
By Tim Pugmire
Minnesota Public Radio
October 30, 2002


Republican Norm Coleman and two other U.S. Senate candidates resumed their campaigns Wednesday, five days after the plane crash that killed DFL Sen. Paul Wellstone and seven other people.
Coleman says his push to election day will have an upbeat and positive tone, and he looks forward to debating his likely DFL opponent, former Vice President Walter Mondale. Polls already give Mondale a lead in the race.

Norm Coleman
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Norm Coleman is back on the campaign trail. He's flying around Minnesota Wednesday, and got a send-off from supporters at the St. Paul airport early in the morning. Listen to his comments.
(MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire)

With the song Pick Up the Pieces blaring from the speakers on top of a campaign truck, Coleman supporters gathered before dawn on the tarmac at the St. Paul downtown airport. Georgia Dietz said she wanted to give her candidate a lift with an enthusiastic sendoff.

"I think hopefully the supporters will pump him up. And I know they got a big whirlwind six days planned," Dietz says. "I think the people are ready to jump out of the barn again and get going."

Norm Coleman suspended all campaign activities after Friday's plane crash. At the morning rally, Coleman told his supporters it's now time to get back to work.

Coleman did not mention the name of former Vice President Walter Mondale, but he said the challenge ahead will be daunting. He also established a tone for the remaining days of the campaign.

"In an upbeat and positive and hopeful and engaging and embracing way, we are going to run this campaign for the next six days," Coleman says. "And we're going to do that the way we've done it. We're going to work hard. We're going to work hard for the next six days."

Coleman says that theme applies to television commercials now running until the election. He's also looking forward to any chances to debate his opponents in the coming days. Coleman has a lot of questions for Mondale.

Walter Mondale
Former Vice President Walter Mondale, at the MPR studios several years ago. He told Minnesota DFL leaders he will run for the U.S. Senate in Paul Wellstone's place, if the DFL Party nominates him tonight.
(MPR file photo)

"What's your 21st century plan for taxes? What's your 21st century plan for education? What's your 21st century plan for rural Minnesota? And you've got to do it. You only have five days," says Coleman. "We've been doing it, and it's been tough. And we've debated and challenged and we've responded. And I think in that sense, the people of Minnesota get it. They're looking for something of substance. They want to know, 'Where's the beef?' We've got it."

Results of a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll shows Mondale leading Coleman 47 percent to 39 percent. DFL Party delegates meet Wednesday night in Minneapolis to nominate a candidate to replace Wellstone's name on the ballot, and Mondale says he's ready to enter the race. Mondale made his intentions known in a letter to state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Erlandson.

Mondale isn't talking campaign specifics until the party meeting. But during a daytime event sponsored by the Dorsey and Whitney law firm, he said such decisions must be made in the midst of grief.

"And we will do that in Minnesota. And we will do it with dignity. And we will do it responsibly. And we will do it in a way that shows respect for the memory of this remarkable senator and his family," Mondale said.

"The people of Minnesota ... are looking for something of substance. They want to know, 'Where's the beef?' We've got it."

- Norm Coleman, on his likely DFL opponent, Walter Mondale

Two other U.S. Senate candidates have also resumed their campaigns. Green Party candidate Ray Tricomo says he briefly considered dropping out of the race after hearing of Wellstone's death. But he says supporters convinced him to fight on. Tricomo, who had less than 1 percent in the Star Tribune poll, says he'll try to reach out to Wellstone supporters in a gentle and diplomatic way.

"I think there needs to be a balance between the kind of political opportunism which makes people cynical ... and the other extreme, which would be to ignore the considerable body of support that Paul had, and in a spiritual sense still has, and always will," says Tricomo.

The Independence Party's Jim Moore resumed his campaign with the debut of his first and only television commercial. He says the 90-second ad will air only a few times. Moore says this is a clearly different race since the death of Wellstone. Moore's latest poll support was 2 percent. Moore says he'd like all the candidates to abandon their political advertising, and instead focus their energies on debates.

"I would like to put a moratorium on all ads. I'll pull my ad, and the Coleman campaign and then Mondale," Moore says. "If we can just let voters decide based upon the debate, I think that would be a great and beautiful thing to provide Minnesotans, in this tough time with the loss of Senator Wellstone."

Moore says he plans to shake hands Wednesday night with people heading to the Bob Dylan concert at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul. Norm Coleman attends a GOP rally in St. Paul Wednesday evening, then plans to seek votes at the Dylan concert as well.

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