Minnesota remembers Paul Wellstone on 15th anniversary of his death

Wednesday, Oct. 25 marks the 15th anniversary of the death of Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone.

The senator, along with his wife, daughter and campaign aides were all killed in plane crash in northern Minnesota in 2002.

People all across the state will be honoring the late senator. Gov. Mark Dayton has declared Wednesday “Wellstone Remembrance Day.”

Fifteen years ago, the Democratic lawmaker was running for a third term when the plane he was flying in crashed in Eveleth, Minnesota, killing all eight people on-board. Wellstone died just 12 days before the election, with polls showing he held a large lead.

Following his death, former vice president Walter Mondale filled his position on the Democratic ticket. Republicans eventually went on to win the seat when Norm Coleman defeated Mondale.

On Sunday, the University of Minnesota held an event looking at Wellstone’s impact on politics, with speakers including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison.

Sen. Al Franken now holds Wellstone's old seat and spoke to Fox 9 on Wednesday.

“Paul was a friend of mine. I admire him tremendously,” Franken said. “He was a fighter for the little guy. Today is always a sad day for me and so many people he touched - Minnesota people and around the country."

Franken recalled a few special moments with the senator.

"In 2002, in the days before he died, he said, ‘I don’t represent the big oil companies, pharmaceutical companies...they already have great representation. It’s the rest that need it; I represent the people of Minnesota.’”

"I represent those people in the seat that he held and every day," Franken said. "And I'm inspired to continue the work he did. I just try to uphold his legacy on issues like mental health, early childhood education, fairness for workers, standing up for farmers and veterans.”

Franken also reflected on the last time he saw Wellstone, back at University Club in St. Paul.

"I had just come from my mom’s nursing home. She was having this sporadic dementia, and it had been a bad day. Paul…the first thing he says to me is ‘how’s your mom?’ I said it was a difficult day, I couldn’t even have a conversation with her. And he said, ‘you know, touch means so much.’ And so the next day I went back and took her outside - another difficult day - but I put my arm around her and I don’t know if it meant much to my mom, but it meant an awful lot to me.”