Paul D. Wellstone (July 21, 1944 - October 25, 2002) was an American politician and two-term U.S. Senator from Minnesota. He was a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and was a professor of political science at Carleton College before being elected to the Senate in 1990. Wellstone was a leading spokesman for the progressive wing of the national Democratic Party. He served in the Senate from 1991 until his death in a plane crash on 25 October 2002. His wife, Sheila, and daughter, Marcia, also died in the crash. They had two other grown children, David and Mark, who now co-chair the Wellstone Action nonprofit group.
==Early life==O Wellstone was born in Washington D.C. to Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants, Leon and Minnie Wellstone, and raised in Arlington, Virginia. He attended Yorktown High School in Arlington. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a wrestling scholarship, graduating with a degree in political science in three years. He was an Atlantic Coast Conference champion.
In 1965 he earned his B.A., and four years later was awarded a Ph.D. in Political Science. Wellstone's 1969 doctoral dissertation at UNC was "Black Militants in the Ghetto: Why They Believe in Violence."
During the 1970s, he became involved in community organizing, working with the working poor and other politically disenfranchised communities. The first organization he founded was the Organization for a Better Rice County, a group consisting mainly of single parents on welfare, which he organized to advocate for public housing, affordable health care, improved public education, free school lunches, and a publicly-funded day care center. During this same period, he also began organizing with union members, farmers, and liberal activists. Later, he would use these connections in his bid for the Senate.
He went on to become a professor of political science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he taught for 21 years until 1990. In 1982, he ran for state auditor, but lost to Arne Carlson. In 1988, he was the Minnesota campaign manager for Jesse Jackson's Presidential campaign.
In 1990, Wellstone ran for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Rudy Boschwitz, beginning the race as a serious underdog. He won the election, after being outspent by a 7-to-1 margin. Some credit the upset defeat to a letter Boschwitz supporters wrote, on campaign stationery, to members of the Minnesota Jewish community days before the election, accusing Wellstone of being a "bad Jew" for marrying a Gentile and not raising his children in the Jewish faith. Wellstone's reply, widely broadcast on Minnesota television, was, "He has a problem with Christians, then." Boschwitz, like Wellstone, is Jewish.
He defeated Boschwitz again for re-election in 1996. During that campaign, Boschwitz ran ads accusing Wellstone of being "embarrassingly liberal" and calling him "Senator Welfare". Boschwitz accused Wellstone of flag burning, a move which some believe backfired. Up until that point, the race had been dead even, but Wellstone went to beat Boschwitz by a nine-point margin.
Wellstone's upset victory in 1990 and subsequent re-election in 1996 was also credited to a massive grass-roots campaign, which inspired college students, poor people and people of color to get involved in politics for the very first time. In 1990, the number of young people involved in the campaign was so notable that shortly after the election, Walter Mondale told Wellstone that "the kids won it for you." Wellstone also spent a large portion of his Senate career working with the Hmong community in Minnesota, an immigrant community that had not traditionally been involved in American politics. Wellstone also spent a great deal of his Senate career cultivating the veterans community.