ST. PAUL. -- Sen. Paul Wellstone's death left Minnesota Democrats in need of a powerhouse replacement in a race that could spell control of the Senate.
With Election Day on Nov. 5, it may take someone with the high-profile stature of a Mondale, a Humphrey or perhaps former Minnesota Viking Alan Page to pull it off.
"You need somebody who's known statewide," said Craig Grau, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. "In the past, people have had widows. That is not the case in this situation."
As one of the Senate's most liberal members, Wellstone one of Republicans' hottest targets this year -- and the race broke Minnesota records for the money that washed in. The two candidates raised a collective $19 million, with at least that much spent by others on their behalf.
As of last week, a poll showed Wellstone with a slight lead.
The Democrats' best possibility might be Walter Mondale, the former vice president and senator who is now an attorney in Minneapolis. Mondale, who will turn 75 in January, didn't return a phone call seeking comment and didn't take questions Friday.
"He's definitely a very fit, coherent, smart 74-year-old man who is extremely active in lots of different ways," said Lilly Goren, head of the political science department at College of St. Catherine in St. Paul.
She noted that Mondale is younger than Frank Lautenberg, the former senator lured out of retirement to replace scandal-tainted Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli on the New Jersey ballot.
"Wellstone was cut from the political tradition of Minnesota and (Hubert) Humphrey and Mondale, and carrying on the fight is something Mondale continues to do," Goren said.
Skip Humphrey, son of the former vice president and a former state attorney general, lost some of his luster when he came in third in the 1998 gubernatorial race behind Gov. Jesse Ventura and Coleman, but he's still on the list of possibilities.
Page has been courted for Senate before, but has said he was happy being a state Supreme Court justice.
Other potential candidates include Mondale's son, Ted, an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in 1998, and Rebecca Yanisch and Mike Ciresi, both of whom unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Senate nomination two years ago. Yanisch indicated she might be interested.
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