Sen. Paul Wellstone formally launched his bid for a third term today, embarking on a statewide campaign swing from a Northfield school, telling supporters much work remains a head of him in Washington from improving conditions for veterans to make health care, prescription drugs and housing more affordable. In seeking another six years in the Senate, Wellstone is breaking a self-imposed two-term limit.
Standing in the media center of Bridgewater Elementary School in Northfield, surrounded by supporters, Sen. Paul Wellstone made his third run for office official.
"Minnesota is as state that I live. Minnesota is a state that I believe in and we intend to win this race," he declared.
Until shortly after Republicans won the White House and control of Congress a year and a half ago, Wellstone had been saying he would not seek a third term. Now Wellstone is pledging not to give up in Washington until he meets a litany of challenges.
"I am a senator that will not give up until there is a good education for every child. I will not give up until there is Social Security for our citizens. I will not give up until there's prescription affordable prescription drugs. I will not give up until there's affordable housing. I will not give up until our family farmers are get a fair shake. I will not give up until there's economic justice. I will not give up until there's the end of discrimination. I will not give up until our country, the United States of America, until we really become all that we can be," Wellstone said.
Wellstone, who divides his time between Washington and a home in St. Paul, chose Northfield for his campaign kickoff, saying the small college town 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities represents home to him.
Before his election to the Senate in 1990, Wellstone taught political science at Carleton College for more than 20 years.
Several elementary students were on hand for Wellstone's remarks. But most of the people in the room were invited supporters.
With the Senate so closely divided and with polls showing Wellstone and Republican challenger Norm Coleman neck and neck, Minnesota's Senate race is already attracting national attention.
Analysts predict Coleman and Wellstone will spend upwards of $20 million on the contest and that doesn't include millions more in unregulated cash that's already coming in.
Wellstone referenced the attention on his re-election and implied - even after two terms - that he remains the same underdog who defeated Republican Rudy Boschwitz 12 years ago.
"In this room is not the pharmaceutical industry. In this room I don't see the health insurance industry represented real well. I don't see the oil companies here. I don't see the oil companies here. I don't see the energy companies here. I don't see the tobacco companies here," Wellstone said.
Wellstone says his accomplishments include legislation cited legislative accomplishments to protect women, better serve veterans and improve conditions for family farmers. Looking ahead, Wellstone talked about fighting moves to privatize Social Security, and making housing, health care and prescription drugs more affordable.
Wellstone also promoted education spending over tax cuts. "I will always put Minnesota education and Minnesota children first before tax giveaways to multi-national corporations and tax breaks for the wealthy top one percent," he said.
Outside the school, Minnesota Republican Party spokesman Bill Walsh stood wearing a Wellstone 1990 T-shirt, holding a cardboard cutout in the senator's likeness and criticizing Wellstone for going back on his two-term pledge.
"He's lying; fulfilling his lie to the people of Minnesota when he said he would only serve two terms and he broke that pledge today officially. We always knew he was running but officially broke his pledge with the people," Walsh said.
From Northfield, Wellstone traveled to Duluth and then onto Moorhead. He'll break out his trademark green school bus for a send off in front of the state Capitol for trip to St. Cloud and to the Iron Range.More from MPR