Minnesota students reflect on Sen. Wellstone’s death, election

Justin R. Lessman

Justin R. Lessman

The death of Sen. Paul Wellstone Friday morning in northern Minnesota not only affected those citizens living across the border, but also shook many SDSU students who call the neighboring state home.

“It was just so unexpected,” said Jared Johnson, a senior agronomy major from Tracy, Minn. “It was really tragic, especially with the election so close at hand.”

John Lanoue, a senior agriculture education major from Amiret, Minn., said that, while he did not necessarily agree with all of the stances Wellstone took on some issues, the senator’s death was still unfortunate.

“He was one of the nation’s foremost liberals, but you had to admire the man for his deep convictions and sticking by what he believed in,” Lanoue said.

Wellstone was locked in a close senate race with former St. Paul Mayor and Republican Norm Coleman, when his twin-engine private plane crashed last Friday a short distance from the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, some 60 miles north of Duluth. Also killed in the wreck were his wife, daughter and five others.

Wellstone’s death came just 11 days prior to the election.

Party officials and state Democrats have not discussed replacing Wellstone on the ballot, but former Vice-President and Sen. Walter Mondale has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

While some at SDSU attempt to put the tragedy behind them and look to the future, others are critical of the way politicians and the media have handled the situation.

Senior Travis Bitker, an agronomy major from Milroy, Minn., said he was upset with what he was reading in the newspapers and seeing on television.

“A man, a U.S. senator, is dead, and all people can think about is who gets control of the Senate now, or who will control the Senate,” he said. “I just don’t think that’s appropriate at this time.”

Johnson said, while the loss was unfortunate, he feels that the state and country need to move ahead.

“We just need to keep at it,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll put a strong candidate up there and we’ll see what the people decide.”

Lanoue agreed.

“Whatever your personal feelings are for the man, this just isn’t the way elections are supposed to end,” he said.