Paul Wellstone on what kind of person should be state auditor

Sen. Paul Wellstone
Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., makes a point as he talks with reporters in Minneapolis in June 2002.
Ann Heisenfelt | AP 2002

This debate originally aired in August 1982.

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Wednesday is the 15th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone and seven other people. At the time of the crash, Wellstone was running for a third term in the U.S. Senate.

The first time he ran for public office was in 1982 when he was the DFL candidate for Minnesota state auditor. His opponent was Republican Arne Carlson.

The two men debated on Minnesota Public Radio in August of that year.

"I am an activist auditor," Wellstone said during the debate. "To my mind, it's simply not enough to talk to local communities about what their economic situation might be. What you have to be is a community builder."

Wellstone said he wanted to be an advocate for local government in Minnesota because he knows what it's like when they run out of money — "communities die."

"I talk about programs that build communities. And that's one of the reasons you are elected to office, because you're a policy maker," he said.

Debate moderator Pat Kessler, who covered politics for MPR at the time, then asked Carlson if that was a fair assessment of what a state auditor was meant to do.

"Everything that my opponent has indicated he wants to do can be done as a member of the Minnesota State Legislature or the United States Congress," Carlson said.

Carlson defeated Wellstone in that race for state auditor. In 1990, Carlson was elected to the first of two terms as governor of Minnesota. That same year, Wellstone was elected to the U.S. Senate for the first time.

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