Despite recent tragedy, the election-year politics continue

Andrew Pritchard

With one week remaining before the Nov. 5 elections, major candidates in the metro area and statewide races have suspended campaign activities in the wake of Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone’s death Friday, but the politics continue.

Some 900 delegates of the Democratic Party will meet in Minneapolis on Wednesday to select Wellstone’s ballot replacement, expected to be former Vice President Walter Mondale after Wellstone’s son asked the former Minnesota senator and vice president to fill that role.

Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Ron Eibensteiner asked the DFL to commit Mondale to five debates with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Norm Coleman, The Associated Press reported Monday.

In a letter to Eibensteiner on Monday, former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson asked the GOP chairman to stop calling for debates until the Democrats officially announce their candidate.

“I understand these are stressful moments for everyone, but I do think the sensitivities of the Wellstone family should be respected,” Carlson wrote.

Eibensteiner also criticized the national Democratic leadership for attacking Coleman on the national TV networks’ Sunday talk shows.

“Keep your negative comments away from our Senate race,” Eibensteiner was quoted as saying in a Sunday e-mail from the state Republican Party to supporters.

“Minnesotans have seen first-hand Norm Coleman’s strength of character and admirable leadership style,” the e-mail quoted Eibensteiner as saying. “He has handled this difficult situation with the utmost grace and respect.”

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaking Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition,” called Coleman’s campaign “the most negative, derogatory campaign to take place anyplace in the country.”

“I’ve spoken to the Wellstone family Ö and I know how they felt about Coleman and his campaign,” Reid said. “So I’m willing to go along and be nice guy, but don’t talk about (the) principled race that he conducted against Paul Wellstone, because it wasn’t.”

Political strategist James Carville, speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” called the Republican campaign in Minnesota “slash and burn.”

“The truth of the matter is, Paul Wellstone did not like him,” Carville said of Coleman. “He liked Jesse Helms better than Norm Coleman because Jesse Helms and Paul Wellstone stood for something. Norm Coleman stands for nothing but attack.”

Since Friday, the Coleman campaign Web site has displayed no political content, only white text on a black background calling Wellstone’s death a “terrible, unimaginable tragedy.”

“Laurie and I wish to extend our deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers to the entire Wellstone family and to all families who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy,” Coleman’s statement says.