Paul David Wellstone (July 21, 1944 – October 25, 2002) was an American academic, author, and politician who represented Minnesota in the United States Senate from 1991 until he was killed in a plane crash in Eveleth, Minnesota, in 2002.
A member of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, Wellstone was a leader of the progressive wing of the national Democratic Party.
Born in Washington D.C., Wellstone graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A.
in Political Science.
He was a professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and a community organizer in Rice County prior to entering public office.
In 1982, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for State Auditor against Republican Arne Carlson.
Wellstone gained national attention after his upset victory over Republican incumbent Rudy Boschwitz in the 1990 US Senate election.
Widely considered an underdog and outspent by a 7-to-1 margin, he was the only Democratic candidate to defeat a Republican senator in the 1990 election season.
In his 1996 reelection campaign, he defeated Boschwitz in a rematch.
He won both Senate elections with a majority of the popular vote.
In 1999, Wellstone formed an exploratory committee to run for President of the United States in the 2000 election.
After campaigning in the early primary states, he announced he would not seek the presidency because of sustained physical limitations from a college wrestling injury.
His condition was later diagnosed as multiple sclerosis.
As Senator, Wellstone authored the Wellstone Amendment for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.
His efforts toward campaign finance reform were posthumously overturned in 2010 by the U.S.
Supreme Court in Citizens United v.
Federal Election Commission.
In 2002, he was the only Senator facing reelection to vote against the congressional authorization for the Iraq War.Eleven days before the 2002 U.S.
Senate election, Wellstone died in a plane crash in Eveleth, Minnesota.
His wife, Sheila, and daughter, Marcia, also died on board.
Wellstone's sons, David and Mark, were not on the flight, and until 2018 co-chaired the Wellstone Action nonprofit organization in honor of their parents.
The organization was subsequently renamed Re:Power after their departure.