Paul Wellstone, the son of Russian immigrants, was genuinely liked on both sides of the aisle in the US Senate. Respect for his political passion and authentic speaking crossed party lines. (See story.)
By all accounts, the two-term senator from Minnesota was an uncompromising, staunch champion of liberal causes. His vote against a recent Senate resolution allowing war against Iraq singled him out as the only Democratic senator involved in a close race who opposed administration policy.
That sense of integrity, no matter how unpopular the stand he took, may have accounted for a rise in his poll numbers in the tight race for a third term against GOP challenger Norm Coleman.
In his first term of office, he wrote, and helped pass, the "gift ban" bill that ended lobbyists' gifts to members of Congress and their staff. He also worked to establish strict lobbyist disclosure rules.
Wellstone was a powerful force for human rights around the world. He joined Sen. Sam Brownback (R) of Kansas to pass legislation addressing the serious problem of international traffic in women and children for prostitution and forced labor.
The former wrestling champion and college professor also will be remembered for his efforts to expand school funding, and recruit needed teachers for urban and rural areas.
There aren't many senators who can fill his shoes on the Senate floor in speaking so earnestly for a strong federal role in fixing social problems.
He fought fair and square for his causes. His passing just days before the election has opened up a political wrestling match between national Democrats and Republicans because of a tight contest for control of the Senate. The best legacy for Wellstone would be to have neither party engage in political posturing and power schemes to capture his vacant seat.