Three decades after his last U.S. Senate run, Democrat Walter Mondale is starting a five-day whirlwind campaign as the replacement for the late senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota in a race that could determine the balance of power in Washington. The former vice president officially began his campaign Wednesday evening, setting up a race against Republican Norm Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul. Coleman was hand-picked by the White House to run against Wellstone, who died in a plane crash last week.
The former vice president mentioned his support of gay rights in a speech Wednesday night announcing his official candidacy. "I will fight as I always have for minorities of all races and religions and sexual orientation who deserve to share in the fullness of American life," he said as he accepted Minnesota Democrats' nomination. "In these few remaining days--and how few they are--Joan and I will travel our state. I'm asking everyone who's listening to us tonight: Please give us your help." He had a full schedule planned for Thursday, with several hours blocked off from campaigning to attend another funeral for one of the people who died in the crash.
Democrats were buoyant as they nominated Mondale to run. The 74-year-old is seen as their best shot at keeping Wellstone's seat. National gay political group the Stonewall Democrats announced their support of Mondale Thursday in a statement. "He has been a champion of human rights, and he will be a partner who we can work with to advance the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans," said Stonewall executive director Chad Johnson.
Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Washington, D.C.-based gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, called Mondale's candidacy "good news for the GLBT community" and said HRC is throwing its support behind the candidate.
"Former vice president Mondale will carry on the legacy of equality that Paul Wellstone forged in Minnesota," she said. "HRC will immediately endorse Walter Mondale."