BAXTER -- U.S. Senate hopeful Norm Coleman stressed his post 9/11 public service and his "the future is now" theme before a filled-to-the-rafters crowd of Republicans this morning at Black Bear Lodge and Saloon.
"In Minnesota you earn something," he said of his campaign. "It's not an entitlement."
The former St. Paul mayor entered the lodge to rhythmic clapping and chants of "Norm, Norm, Norm." Accompanying him were his wife, Lauri; son, Jacob; and his father, World War II veteran Norm Coleman Sr.
Coleman repeatedly emphasized the election was only four days away and urged supporters to talk to friends, neighbors and even look at their Christmas card lists for potential voters. He said he has covered 2,500 miles and 13 cities in the last two days.
In brief comments after his speech he told a reporter he thought it was DFL Senate candidate Walter Mondale's responsibility to engage in a Senate debate and to explain his vision for the future. He said he has been working for two years, has visited the Brainerd area about 10 times and didn't know how often Mondale had been here recently.
"In the end you have to earn it," he said.
Mondale has said he wouldn't participate in tonight's Senate debate but kept the door open to a debate before the election.
Coleman told the audience his wife's family, the Casserlys, have a place near Backus that is like a second home to him. It's a place where he comes to fish, to rest and to relax.
He paid tribute to his father, who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and to other veterans who attended the rally.
"That generation (his father's) -- they won a world war," he said. "They built for us the greatest country in the world."
Turning his attention the airplane crash that occurred a week ago today and claimed the lives of Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife, his daughter, three aides and two crew members, Coleman said Minnesotans suffered a real tragedy. Although the loss was painful, he said there was a time when people have to move on just as they did after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Introducing Coleman were Father Edward Foster of Pine River and Rep. Dale Walz, R-Brainerd. Also attending the rally was Paul Koering, Republican candidate for the Senate District 12 seat; and Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker. Coleman also recognized Crow Wing County Sheriff Dick Ross in the crowd.
Coleman emphasized his economic development projects in St. Paul and his intent to continue running a positive campaign.
Mondale hit the campaign trail Thursday, appearing on radio shows, meeting with newspaper editorial writers, speaking at a college and shaking hands with shoppers. And he hit the road again today.
After spending Thursday in the Twin Cities, Mondale planned to conduct town hall meetings in Mankato and Rochester, then spend the night in Duluth to be ready for appearances there Saturday. "I want to reintroduce myself and I want to listen," he said.
He also said he'll agree to one debate with GOP candidate Norm Coleman but he hasn't decided when.
(This story contains information compiled by The Associated Press.)
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