With a heavy heart, the democratic process moves on

Matt Moore

As Minnesotans wonder “Why,” the Minnesota Democratic Party has to wonder, “What next.” Although the man Paul David Wellstone can never be replaced, the Sen. Paul Wellstone must be replaced in the U.S. Senate.

The short-term solution is up to Gov. Jesse Ventura. Under Minnesota law, the governor has the power to make a temporary appointment to fill the seat. However, any appointment made would likely be purely symbolic. Temporary appointments are pre-empted by elected officers. If a new senator is elected Nov. 5, the newly-elected senator would take office immediately and complete Sen. Wellstone’s term before beginning his or her own.

The long-term solution is more ambiguous. The Democratic Party may replace Senator Wellstone’s name on the ballot, but it is unlikely to be required. If the Democratic Party does want to bring forward a new candidate it has a limited time to do so. The elections are only 10 days away. Parties may only replace candidates up to four days before the election. Any replacement, then, would have to be named by Friday and most likely would be named sooner to allow some public examination of the candidate.

It does not seem, however, the party would be forced to do so. According to a 1946 Minnesota attorney general opinion, the state does not have the specific power to remove Sen. Wellstone’s name from the ballot if the Democratic Party does not file a replacement. Although this is not binding law, the courts would probably refer to it. This raises the possibility of Sen. Wellstone being elected postmortem. Similarly, in 2000, then-Sen. John Ashcroft lost to Mel Carnahan who died weeks before the Missouri election.

If Sen. Wellstone’s name remains on the ballot and receives a majority of the electorate, the governor’s temporary appointment would remain in office for one year. A special election held in November 2003 would decide the senator for the remainder of the term. After that, the seat would return to normal for re-election in 2008.

Even in the face of tragedy, the democratic process moves on and the people’s voice shall be heard. Paul Wellstone would want no less.


Matt Moore is an editorial board member and welcomes comments at [email protected] Please send comments to [email protected]