Paul Wellstone has been killed

Paul Wellstone has been killed in a plane crash along with his wife, his daughter and several aides. While Power Line readers know that we were not fans of Senator Wellstone, we extend our sincere sympathy to his family, especially to his two surviving sons. Under Minnesota law, the Democrats can replace Wellstone with a new candidate up to four days prior to the election. Given this statute, we think the Democrats pretty much have to replace Wellstone on the ballot. The Carnahan model would not seem to apply; under Minnesota law, as we understand it, the governor (who is not a Democrat in any event) has no role, and the election a week from Tuesday will be for a full six-year term. Moreover, if the Democrats did try to keep Wellstone on the ballot with the expectation that someone else would somehow serve the term, they would encounter Constitutional language which rather clearly implies that only a living person more than thirty years old can be elected to the Senate. John Ashcroft refused to challenge Carnahan’s posthumous election in Missouri; we are quite certain that Minnesota Republicans would mount a Constitutional challenge if the same maneuver were attempted here. So we think the Democrats have to put up a new candidate. They could select one of Wellstone’s sons–about whom we know nothing at all–but it is doubtful whether sympathy alone would be enough to elect a complete unknown to a six-year Senate term. It seems more likely that the Democrats will choose someone well-known enough to run a strong race despite having essentially no time to campaign. This could be either someone like Mike Hatch, the current Attorney General, or an elder statesman like Walter Mondale. The problem with nominating a partisan figure who is well-known in his own right is that doing so may largely dissipate the sympathy factor. Hatch, in particular, is a polarizing figure, and while it is entirely possible that he might beat Coleman, it is hard to imagine many people voting for him out of sympathy for Wellstone. When we first heard about Wellstone’s tragic death, our instinct was that the Democrats had been handed the election. Upon reflection, we think that is not so clear.

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