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Senate candidates hit campaign trail
By Mark Zdechlik
Minnesota Public Radio
October 31, 2002

Minnesota DFL U.S. Senate candidate Walter Mondale hit the campaign trail for the first time since the mid-1980s on Thursday. As Mondale's campaign rapidly unfolds, Republican Norm Coleman continues to push on with his so called "The Future is Now" campaign swing outside of the Twin Cities metro area.

Senate candidate Walter Mondale has already produced a campaign ad. View the ad.

Walter Mondale's first news conference as a 2002 U.S. Senate candidate quickly offered a glimpse into the unparalleled national attention his candidacy will bring to Minnesota between now and Tuesday's election.

Reporters from all over county jockeyed for space with Minnesota journalists, everyone -- including the former vice president and his loosely organized army of campaign workers -- crammed into a relatively small local DFL campaign office.

The 74-year-old Mondale's resume includes two terms in the U.S. Senate, vice president under Jimmy Carter in the 1970s, and ambassador to Japan under the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

"I don't apologize for my experience, I think its an asset," Mondale said in response to a question about his age. "I think the very things that our country needs right now in that Senate are the things that my experience permits me to bring to bear. Secondly, while the dates may be different, the fundamental problems and the challenges for the American people remain the same. We've got a serious economy, we've got an international security challenge, the other things I talked about and that's what this campaign is about."

In his new TV ads, Norm Coleman expresses sorrow over the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone and others. Download the ads in mpeg format.
Looking foward
Me again

Mondale also released a letter from his personal physician that says Mondale is in excellent health and in good shape to perform all the duties required of a U.S. senator for the next six years. In the letter, Dr. Paul Phillips says last spring Mondale suffered an isolated embolic event, which left him with partial vision in his right eye. Phillips says there is almost no chance the condition will recur.

Mondale says he will agree to appear in one debate. Numerous media organizations have extended various debate proposals, including Minnesota Public Radio, but the Mondale campaign is not saying where or when it will debate, nor with whom it prefers to debate.

During an appearance on Minnesota Public Radio's Midday broadcast, Mondale said his priority is to get out and speak with Minnesota voters; something, he says he needs to do before appearing in any debate.

"I want to get around the state and see the people of Minnesota, this is a big state and they've got a right to be heard and then I'm more than willing to debate," he said.

Mondale will hear from Minnesotans through a series of town meeting-style forums, the first of which was staged by his campaign at Macalester College in St. Paul. A standing ovation from hundred of people and chants of "Fritz" welcomed the DFL's elder statesman.

Early Thursday morning, Coleman was in Moorhead, counting up with supporters the number of times his campaign has visited northwestern Minnesota.
(MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson)

"Somebody had to carry Paul's torch," he said. "Somebody had to make certain that this tragedy didn't end in futility. That the people of Minnesota had to be given a chance to choose who they wanted to succeed them in the Senate and one of those choices had to be someone who believed in carrying forward Paul Wellstone's legacy and that's what I'm doing here today."

Mondale took numerous questions from the audience. He said, like Wellstone , he would have voted against against the Bush administration use-of-force resolution regarding Iraq. He also told the group he would not vote to confirm Supreme Court nominees who oppose legalized abortion. Mondale also promoted the need for campaign finance reform.

Phil Steger, with the St. Paul-based Friends of a Non-Violent World, thanked Mondale for agreeing to run. "Mr. Vice President, I'm relieved in this time of tragedy there's someone with your credentials and integrity to do the impossible and also you humility to recognize that you can't stand in for Paul Wellstone you can only be Vice President Mondale and hopefully Sen. Mondale," he said.

Mondale's emerging campaign is already out with a television ad.

New ads from Republican Norm Coleman's campaign are also decidedly positive; a sharp contrast from the Democrat and Republican ad wars that that relentlessly filled commercial breaks prior to last Friday.

As Mondale spent day one of his campaign in the Twin Cities metro area, Republican Norm Coleman's campaign is continuing on in greater Minnesota with its "The Future is Now" tour.

Reporters from all over county jockeyed with Minnesota journalists in a relatively small local DFL campaign office for Mondale's first news conference as a Senate candidate.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

Early Thursday morning, Coleman was in Moorhead, counting up with supporters the number of times his campaign has visited northwestern Minnesota.

Coleman's attitude and campaign schedule are energetic. Since restarting his campaign early Wednesday morning, Coleman has been all over Minnesota, including nine stops from International Falls to Mankato.

"For two years I have been out there articulating a vision for the future -- growing jobs, making sure there's a vibrant rural Minnesota, making sure that we deal with Medicare and prescription drugs. My message hasn't changed in that regard. I have laid out and worked at putting together a vision for a bright future," Coleman said.

Coleman says he will canvass the state right up through the election and the Republican who's been arguably overshadowed by Mondale entrance into the race, will once again be getting some help from some big Republican names.

Vice President Cheney and President Bush will be back again in Minnesota trying to beating the Coleman campaign drums.

Right along with the issues, Coleman has begun reminding people how long he's been working to get elected to the Senate; the implication clearly being Coleman may deserve victory more than does his new opponent.

"I'm unabashedly saying, 'Hey Minnesotans, reward people who work hard for something.' I've worked hard to represent the people of this state and I believe they'll respond to that," he said.

Coleman's campaign rhetoric prior to the Wellstone tragedy almost always included direct attacks on Wellstone's Senate record. But now Coleman is sticking close to his own agenda and only very gently defining his new competition in Mondale.

"My opponent is somebody who has an impressive resume. He has served this state and this country and I understand that but, again, if I can just reach out there and remind people that the race is about the future and that I have worked hard and I will continue to work hard I worked hard for two years, I'll work hard for the next days and I'll work hard for the next six years building a bright future. If I can do that,I believe I can be successful," Coleman said.

More from MPR
  • Audio: Mondale on MPR's Midday