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On 11th anniversary of Wellstone crash, Norm Coleman mourns the loss

Photo by Terry Gydesen
Norm Coleman: "Paul Wellstone earned the respect of those, including me, with whom he fought. His sincerity was never in doubt."

On the 11th anniversary of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone’s death, former Sen. Norm Coleman offers words of mourning and respect for the fiery liberal.

Coleman was challenging Wellstone for the Senate seat in 2002 election when a plane crash near Eveleth killed Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, their daughter Marcia and five others.

Coleman won the election 11 days later, beating former Vice President Walter Mondale, who’d been recruited to run in Wellstone’s place.

Friday on his Facebook page, Norm Coleman writes:

Eleven years ago today, Paul Wellstone died in a tragic plane crash. 

In a day and age where bitter partisan recrimination seems the order of the day I am compelled to reflect on the life that Paul Wellstone lead both in, and out, of public service. 

Paul Wellstone and the very conservative Senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, were political opposites. Yet by all accounts, they came to respect each other for the sincerity of their beliefs. It seems we’ve lost that in Washington today, and with that, a certain decency in politics. 

Whether you agreed or disagreed with Paul he believed in enough in the power of ideas to be respectful of the difference of opinions of others. 

He never stopped believing in the innate goodness of all people and the capacity for all people, regardless of their station in life, to make a difference in the world around them.

That was the most beautiful gift of Paul Wellstone — and I wish his presence were with us today.

As we all reflect on this day of loss of Paul we must also remember there were others who we lost that day when his plane crashed near Eveleth.

Paul, his wife, Sheila, their daughter Marcia Wellstone Markuson and campaign staffers Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy and Will McLaughlin were all lost on this day.

I knew young Will well. His mom and dad were epic figures in St. Paul politics. He was decent, handsome, bright and talented. A young man with limitless potential. There is a hole in the heart of all of those who continue to love and miss him and all those who perished that day. 

There was a time in politics, not so long ago, when you could fight the good fight, disagree on the path to a better future but still respect the opposition for the sincerity of their beliefs. 

Paul Wellstone earned the respect of those, including me, with whom he fought. His sincerity was never in doubt. His passion for justice was never questioned. Over a decade later his loss is still mourned by all those whose lives he touched.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Jack Boardman on 10/25/2013 - 04:20 pm.

    Paul Wellstone

    Very nice tribute by former Senator Coleman.

    • Submitted by Tony Oppegard on 10/27/2013 - 07:18 pm.

      Coleman is a hypocrite

      Wellstone deserves all of the nice comments that Coleman is NOW sending his way. But prior to Wellstone’s death, Coleman was downright nasty towards him. That what’s known as a hypocrite…

  2. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/28/2013 - 07:12 pm.

    In fact, although I did not live in Minnesota at the time,

    I visited at Christmas, and I distinctly remember a Strib article in which Coleman was positively crowing about winning the election. He said something like “God pulled the camel through the needle’s eye” (a misapplication of that particular Bible verse) and told about how exciting it was to sit at Benjamin Franklin’s desk.

    I recall thinking, “So God killed eight people just so you could sit at Benjamin Franklin’s desk?”

  3. Submitted by Kyle Thomas on 10/29/2013 - 09:10 am.

    Coleman bashers let’s put this into some context

    Norm Coleman was running against Paul Wellstone, and hey both ran aggressive campaigns. Tony, can you quote or cite some specific examples of “downright nasty” or did you just not like his political positions or the manne in which he highlighted Wellstone’s voting record? Al Franken was downright nasty to Norm Coleman in the subsquent election, I am guessing that is ok though right?
    And Karen….8 people were tragically killed, but Paul Wellstone was not guarenteed to win that Senate seat, the polls were tight all summer and nationally and in this state Republicans won state and national offices. Is it wrong for Norm Coleman to be excited about his new position representing our state? And to sit at a historical desk? Instead of embracing the kind words Norm Coleman wrote you are stuck in partisan anger.

  4. Submitted by Lesley Lydell on 10/29/2013 - 06:25 pm.

    Coleman’s Previous Tone on Wellstone

    To clarify why Coleman’s recent thoughtful response is at odds with his previously “less-than-thoughtful” comments, here is one example.
    In a 2003 Roll Call interview, Norm Coleman said the following:

    “. . .And the Minnesota Republican is not shy about comparing his legislative accomplishments to those of his predecessor. “To be very blunt and God watch over Paul’s soul, I am a 99 percent improvement over Paul Wellstone,” Coleman said. “Just about on every issue.”

    • Submitted by Kyle Thomas on 10/30/2013 - 03:47 pm.


      About half of Minnesota would agree with that comment. He is talking about politics, they had different views and positions. I fail to see the outrage in that.

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