How a dead man came to be elected to the Senate

The Widow's Seat
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The Independent US

The most unusual US Senate race in decades ended in victory yesterday for a man who was killed too late for his name to be removed from the ballot paper - and whose widow, with no previous political experience, will take his seat.

The most unusual US Senate race in decades ended in victory yesterday for a man who was killed too late for his name to be removed from the ballot paper - and whose widow, with no previous political experience, will take his seat.

Mel Carnahan, the outgoing Missouri governor who was killed in a plane crash on October 16, was declared winner over the incumbent, Christian conservative Republican John Ashcroft, at 2am, after a desperately close contest, which he won by barely one per cent.

Further controversy erupted in the closing hours of the campaign as a judge ordered booths in heavily Democrat St Louis to stay open an extra hour to accomodate queuing voters. The decision was quickly overturned by an appeals court, amid allegations of voting irregularity by both sides.

The result is a bitter personal blow for Mr Ashcroft, who was narrowly leading until Mr Carnahan's light aircraft crashed in bad weather south of St Louis three weeks ago.

Though no love was lost between the two men while the Governor was alive, the tragedy made it virtually impossible for his opponent to campaign in terms of anything other than kindly generalities.

But Mr Ashcroft yesterday said that despite the major constitutional questions raised by the election, he did not intend to appeal the result, despite its importance to the balance of power in the Senate, where the Republican majority has been reduced to just two seats.

"I reject any challenge to the election, and will discourage anyone else from instigating such a challenge," said Mr Ashcroft, who briefly toyed with a run for the Republican presidential election this year. "The will of the people has been expressed with compassion."

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