Mel Carnahan

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Person.png Mel Carnahan   C-SPANRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Mel Carnahan.jpg
Born11 February 1934
Died16 October 2000 (Age 66)
Cause of death
plane crash
Alma materGeorge Washington University, University of Missouri
ParentsA. S. J. Carnahan
SpouseJean Carnahan
Interests • Paul Wellstone
• John Ashcroft
A US politician who died in a small plane crash in 2000. Two years later, a similar plane crash killed Paul Wellstone, another liberal opponent of the "national security" agenda.

Employment.png Governor of Missouri

In office
January 11, 1993 - October 16, 2000
Preceded byJohn Ashcroft

Mel Carnahan was a US politician. He was posthumously reported in the New York Times as having had a "reputation for being clean and on the level."[1] Carnahan was killed in a small plane crash while campaigning against John Ashcroft[2] Two years later, a similar plane crash killed Paul Wellstone[3], another liberal opponent of the "national security" agenda.

Early life

Mel Carnahan was the son of A. S. J. Carnahan, who sat in the U.S. House of Representatives for Missouri for eight terms. He grew up in Rolla and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from George Washington University in 1954. He then joined the Air Force, in which he served during the Korean War.


Carnahan then attended the University of Missouri at Columbia. After completing his law degree there, he was elected municipal judge in Rolla in 1960. Two years later, he entered the Missouri House of Representatives as a deputy; after his first re-election, he took over the position of majority leader of the Democrats there. He also held numerous honorary positions, including president of the Rolla Municipal School Board and chairman of the localRed Cross.

In 1980, Carnahan was elected Missouri's State Treasurer; he was elected lieutenant governor of his state in 1988, and four years later he won the election for governor of Missouri against Republican William L. Webster. He held this position until his death on October 16, 2000.[4]


In 2000, Carnahan ran in the election against incumbent Republican Senator John Ashcroft for United States Senator. The race was highly competitive, despite the Senator having a larger budget than Carnahan, a war chest that included significant contributions from corporations such as Monsanto Company,[5] headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, which gave five times more to Ashcroft's campaign fund than to the fund of any other congressional hopeful at the time.[6]

Mel Carnahan was killed in a small plane crash during the election campaign[7] His son Roger was also killed in the crash; he was the pilot of the accident aircraft. Since it was no longer possible to change the ballot at that time, Carnahan remained on it as the Democratic candidate for the Senate election and then actually received more votes than the Republican incumbent John Ashcroft. As a result, his wife Jean was appointed his successor.

The 2002 United States Special Senate election

A Special Senate election was held in Missouri on November 5, 2002 to decide who would serve the rest of Mel Carnahan's term. The winner would sit four more years until the next election in 2006. Missouri Governor Roger Wilson had appointed Carnahan's wife Jean, also a Democrat, to serve temporarily. She then decided to run to serve the remainder of the term, but she was narrowly defeated by Republican nominee Jim Talent.

National security and Carnahan's vote against fellow Missourian John Ashcroft as attorney general were major issues in the campaign.[8] Talent, citing Carnahan's votes against homeland-security legislation and missile defense, accused her of being soft on national security, which she objected to, saying he was "doubt[ing] her patriotism."[9]


Two of Mel Carnahan's children also became involved in politics. His son Russ was a long-time deputy in Congress, daughter Robin acted as Secretary of State of Missouri.

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  5. Schanbacher, William D. The Politics of Food: The Global Conflict between Food Security and Food Sovereignty, Praeger Security International; February 26, 2010; ISBN 978-0313363283; p.47
  6. Harrison, Beth B. Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food: What You Don’t Know About the Food You’re Eating and What You Can Do to Protect Yourself, iUniverse, Inc., November 13, 2007, ISBN 978-0595451807
  8. Horner, William T. Showdown in the Show-Me State: The Fight over Conceal-and-carry Gun Laws in Missouri. Page 159. University of Missouri Press, 2005. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  9. Expectations Game Plays for Both Mo. Senate Candidates. Fox News. October 22, 2002. Retrieved April 27, 2015.