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Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Flashback: Fifteen years ago today Missouri lost Governor Mel Carnahan

Mel Carnahan
Fifteen years ago today, Missouri lost Governor Mel Carnahan, his eldest son Randy Carnahan and governor's aide Chris Sifford in a plane crash just outside of St. Louis. Mr. Sifford was a reporter with KTTS Radio News before becoming the Governor's press secretary.

In 2000, Carnahan ran for US Senator against incumbent Republican John Ashcroft. It was a heated and intense campaign, in which Carnahan traveled all over Missouri to garner support in what was a very close race. However, early in the evening of October 16, the night before a presidential debate held at Washington University in St. Louis- just three weeks before the election, the twin-engine Cessna airplane which was piloted by his son Randy, lost control in rainy and foggy conditions and crashed on a forested hillside near Goldman, Missouri, only about 35 miles (56 km) south of St. Louis. 

All three on board the plane (Mel and Randy Carnahan and Chris Sifford, the governor's campaign advisor and former chief of staff) were killed in the crash.


Lieutenant Governor Roger B. Wilson succeeded Carnahan as Missouri's Governor, serving until the end of his gubernatorial term in January 2001. Because the state's election law would not allow Carnahan's name to be removed from the November 7, 2000 ballot, he appointed his widow, Jean Carnahan, to unofficially become the new Democratic candidate. Wilson promised to appoint her if it became vacant as a result of Mel Carnahan's win in the election, and the campaign continued using the slogan "I'm Still With Mel." A Senate first, Carnahan posthumously won by a 2% margin. Jean Carnahan was then appointed to the Senate and served until November 2002, when she was narrowly defeated in a special election by James Talent (R).

Mr. Carnahan was not the only candidate to have died during a US Senate race. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota was killed in a plane crash in 2002, 11 days before a Senate election. 

Representative Jerry Litton, also from Missouri, died in one in 1976 the day that he was nominated by his party. Richard "Dick" Obenshain of Virginia was killed in a plane crash in 1978 just shortly after receiving the Republican nomination. In 2010, Jenny Oropeza died of an illness just a month after voters re-elected her in the Long Beach district during the California State Senate race.

Composed by Mid America Live

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