Report: Gov. Would Appoint Widow

Tuesday, October 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's new governor has decided to appoint the widow of Mel Carnahan as senator if she wants it and the late governor receives more votes than Sen. John Ashcroft in the Nov. 7 election.

Two weeks before Election Day, Gov. Roger Wilson called a news conference Tuesday to announce that Mrs. Carnahan was his choice to fill the Senate vacancy that would occur under such a scenario, sources familiar with Wilson's thinking told the AP.

``Roger has settled on Jean, and the only question is whether she would accept,'' one source said. The Kansas City Star, citing unidentified party sources, also reported Tuesday that Wilson would ask Mrs. Carnahan to take the post.

Mrs. Carnahan hadn't been formally approached by Wilson, at least as of late Monday.

``She has not been asked,'' the late governor's spokesman Tony Wyche said.

Mrs. Carnahan was not expected to participate in the news conference, which Wilson scheduled ``discuss matters involving the U.S. Senate race.''

Mrs. Carnahan's 66-year-old husband, the Democratic governor who was challenging Republican Ashcroft for the Senate seat; their 44-year-old son, Roger; and an aide, Chris Sifford, 37, were killed Oct. 16 when their twin-engine plane crashed en route to a campaign stop.

Officials have said it was legally too late to remove Mel Carnahan's name from the ballot. The tight and sometimes bitter battle with Ashcroft, a Senate freshman and himself a former governor, was seen as a key race in the Democrats' effort to retake control of the Senate.

Mrs. Carnahan has not publicly discussed whether she would be available as a surrogate for her husband if Carnahan outpolls Ashcroft. But she heightened speculation while delivering a eulogy on Sunday for Sifford, urging mourners: ``Don't let the fire go out.''

In an interview with the AP on Monday, Wilson praised Mrs. Carnahan for her public composure since her husband's death, saying that ``with her display of grace under pressure, that Jean Carnahan can will herself to do whatever needs to be done to help people.''

If Carnahan receives more votes than Ashcroft, the interim senator would be appointed by Wilson after Ashcroft's term ends Jan. 3. The person would serve until Missouri's next general election in November 2002.

During a St. Louis appearance Monday, Ashcroft declined to comment about the campaign or about whom Wilson might appoint.

Other Democrats said Mrs. Carnahan should lead the ticket to energize party workers still devastated about her husband's death.

``Everyone is waiting for Mrs. Carnahan to say yes or no. It's her call,'' said veteran state Sen. James Mathewson, D-Sedalia and a close ally of Wilson. ``She is absolutely the first choice.''

During a St. Louis appearance Monday, Ashcroft declined to comment about the campaign.

Jean Carnahan, 66, has never held public office or run for office, though she has campaigned for her husband. She has a degree in business and public administration from George Washington University.

Three widows of congressmen are currently members of the U.S. House: Mary Bono, R-Calif., Lois Capps, D-Calif., and Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo. All three first won special elections to succeed their husbands, and all three won re-election in 1998.


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