Paul David Wellstone was an American academic and politician who represented Minnesota in the United States Senate from 1991 until his death in a plane crash in 2002. A member of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, Wellstone was a leading spokesman for 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. and Ph.D. 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 cycle. 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 McCain-Feingold Bill in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. His efforts toward campaign finance reform were posthumously overturned 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 war in Iraq.