Minnesota's Wellstone dies in plane crash
The diminutive Sen. Paul Wellstone stood just 5-foot-5 but was a powerful voice for health care and workers' rights.
He led efforts in the Senate to raise the minimum wage, championed legislation to protect pension funds and worked in a bipartisan coalition to write a new farm bill. The Senate lost one of its best-known liberal Democratic voices Friday when a twin-engine plane carrying Wellstone and seven other people crashed in light snow on Minnesota's Iron Range.
The 58-year-old, locked in a tight battle for re-election with Republican Norm Coleman, was en route to a friend's funeral in Eveleth, in the northeastern part of the state, aboard a Beech King Air Turboprop chartered by his campaign.
The light plane went down about 2 miles short of the runway. Sheila, his wife of 39 years, daughter Marcia, and three campaign workers were among those killed, a campaign official said.
"The weather at the time was reported as light snow," a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said. Wellstone had been scheduled to debate Coleman in Duluth Friday night.
President George W. Bush called Wellstone "a man of deep conviction, a plainspoken fellow who did his best for the people of his home state." Flags were lowered to half-staff at the White House and Capitol.
Wellstone was seeking a third term in a race considered key to efforts by Democrats to retain control of the Senate.
A Minneapolis-Star Tribune Poll released Wednesday showed him ahead of Coleman, the former St. Paul mayor, 47 percent to 41 percent with 12 undecided. The poll of 1,048 likely voters was conducted Oct. 11-16 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
An MSNBC/Zogby International poll of 500 likely voters had Wellstone leading 46 percent to 37 percent. That poll conducted Oct. 9-11 had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.
The incumbent's death just 11 days before the midterm election brought back memories of the 2000 campaign when Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan and his son were killed in a small plane crash three weeks before the election.
Carnahan's wife, Jean, was appointed to serve the term to which her late husband was posthumously elected and is in a tight special election for a four-year term with former Republican Congressman Jim Talent.
Minnesota's independent Gov. Jesse Ventura would get to appoint a lame-duck senator to fill out the remainder of Wellstone's term, which ends in January.
Calif. governor's race could cost $100 million
Spending in the California governor's race is on pace to top $100 million, a record for the state and possibly any governor's race.
Campaign finance reports this week showed incumbent Democratic Gov. Gray Davis had spent $51.1 million as of Oct. 19. He had $12.1 million left in his war chest.
The Davis campaign raised $3.5 million in the first 19 days of the month, about $1.3 million a week.
If the campaign continues spending at the current rate, Davis could spend more than $70 million on his re-election campaign, according to the Contra Costa County Times.
Republican challenger Bill Simon Jr. indicated he would loan his campaign another $2 million Wednesday. The wealthy investment banker had already written $9 million in personal checks to his campaign since beginning his run and had $1.2 million in the bank at the end of the filing period.
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a University of South California political scientist, told the Los Angeles Times the level of spending on the governor's race was "astonishing."
Colo. Senate race closes in on record spending
Campaign finance reports show total spending in the Colorado U.S. Senate race has surpassed $9 million, and is nearing the $10 million record set in the 1994 governor's race.
Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., is fending off a stiff challenge from Democrat Tom Strickland in the close contest, one of a handful of races across the country that political observers say could determine control of the Senate.
The candidates are expected to saturate television with ads before Nov. 5.
"That's just the way it is the week before the election," Allard's campaign manager Dick Wadhams told The Rocky Mountain News. "The silence will be deafening on Wednesday morning."
President George W. Bush is scheduled to appear at the Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver on Monday to urge Republicans to get out the vote for Allard. The president raised about $1.6 million for GOP House candidate Bob Beuprez and other Republicans at a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser on his last visit to Colorado Sept. 27.
Bush's campaign swing from his Crawford, Texas, ranch also will make stops in New Mexico, Phoenix and Illinois.
With 15 percent of voters undecided, the Senate race is just too close to call. A Denver Post poll of 400 likely voters conducted Oct. 19-22 gave Allard 41 percent to 37 percent for Strickland. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
Strickland campaign manager Brian Hardwick said the ad blitz would try to convince Colorado voters it's time for a change after six years of Allard.
Wadhams said the Allard campaign has not picked a theme for the final advertising push.
Apology demanded in Texas governor's race
Democrat Tony Sanchez demanded an apology from Republican Gov. Rick Perry Friday for a new television ad that attempts to link alleged money laundering at his former savings and loan in Laredo to the murder of a U.S. drug agent.
The Perry ad featuring two retired Drug Enforcement Administration agents says the same drug dealers who killed Kiki Camerena during a 1985 Mexican drug investigation "laundered millions in drug money through Tony Sanchez's bank."
In a campaign appearance Friday with Camerena's sister in Arlington, Texas, Perry said Sanchez failed to take action when he learned about the money laundering.
"When he was notified that his bank was being used to launder drug money, he had a decision to make and he decided to be with the drug dealers ... to send that money to those drug dealers," the governor said.
Sanchez was never charged in the money laundering investigation at Tesoro Savings and Loan in Laredo. He says two federal judges and three federal agencies cleared him and his bank staff of any wrongdoing after an investigation.
David Almaraz, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the case, said in a statement released by the Sanchez campaign that Sanchez fully cooperated with the investigation.
"Today, Rick Perry alleged that Tesoro Savings and Loan was somehow linked to the death of DEA agent Kiki Camerena -- Perry's claim is absolutely preposterous and completely false, without any foundation in fact," he said. "This is a shocking falsehood."
Lautenberg maintains lead for N.J. Senate seat
Former New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg is maintaining his lead over Republican Douglas Forrester in the latest Philadephia Inquirer/News 12 New Jersey Poll.
The 78-year-old Lautenberg, who came out of retirement Sept. 30 to replace Sen. Bob Torricelli, had a 7 percentage point lead, 47 percent to 40 percent, with 11 days remaining until Election Day.
Torricelli was about 13 points behind when he withdrew from the race because of ethics problems over gifts from a wealthy businessman.
The poll showed potential voters regard Lautenberg as a senior statesman after his 18 years in the Senate. He retired in 2001 and has promised to complete a full six-year term if he's elected next month.
The New Jersey Supreme Court allowed Lautenberg's name to replace Torricelli's although the deadline for ballot changes had passed. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in the issue.
The survey of 800 likely voters, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington on Oct. 21-23, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
Democrats up ante for McCall
The National Democratic Committee reportedly had pledged another $250,000 to New York gubernatorial candidate H. Carl McCall even though he trails incumbent Republican Gov. George Pataki by double digits in the polls.
The DNC earlier gave McCall $250,000 but doesn't want to invest heavily in what may be a losing campaign. The party agreed to come up with another $250,000 after McCall complained about a lack of national party support to the New York Times.
DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe told the Times on Thursday that McCall needed to run a better campaign before he got more money from the national committee. McAuliffe reportedly told the state comptroller to spend more time on the campaign trail and less time fund-raising.
Pataki has received about $1.5 million from the Republican National Committee for his re-election campaign.
Will the real George Bush ...
A campaign ad running on television in parts of Kansas shows Republican attorney general candidate Phil Kline being endorsed by President George W. Bush, and that's true.
However, the Kansas City Star reported the footage used in the spot was of candidate George Bush in 2000 before he was elected president. The then Texas governor endorsed Kline for Congress, a race he lost to Rep. Dennis Moore.
Bush said, "Prosperity with a purpose can happen with good men like Phil Kline." But the ad never ran because Kline's campaign ran out of money in the closing days of the race.
A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee said the president had watched the entire Kline commercial, approved the old film clip and "absolutely is supportive of his candidacy."
S.D. voter registration fraud probed
A scandal over fraudulent voting registrations and false applications for absentee ballots is hovering over South Dakota 11 days before the election.
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported Friday that 15 absentee ballot applications were found with forged signatures. State Attorney General Mark Barnett indicated state and federal agents have found more irregularities among hundreds of voter registration cards and absentee ballot applications.
A criminal investigation of alleged fraudulent voting registrations began after the South Dakota Democratic Party began an aggressive campaign to register thousands of American Indians in a bid to re-elect Sen. Tim Johnson, who is in a tight race with Republican Rep. John Thune.
The newspaper said alleged forged signatures have been linked to Becky Red Earth-Villeda, who was hired as an independent contractor to register American Indians. Red Earth-Villeda is also known as Maka Duta, her Dakota name.
The state's Republican Party chairman has requested federal campaign monitors be sent to South Dakota for the election.