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Melvin Eugene Carnahan


In office
January 1993 – October 17, 2000
Lieutenant Roger B. Wilson
Preceded by John Ashcroft
Succeeded by Roger B. Wilson

In office
1989 – 1993
Governor John Ashcroft
Preceded by Harriett Woods
Succeeded by Roger B. Wilson

In office
1981 – 1985
Preceded by Jim Spainhower
Succeeded by Wendell Bailey

In office
1963 – 1967

Born February 11, 1934(1934-02-11)
Birch Tree, Missouri, USA
Died October 17, 2000 (aged 66)
Goldman, Missouri, USA
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jean Carnahan
Alma mater George Washington University (B.A.)
University of Missouri (J.D.)
Profession lawyer
Religion Baptist
Military service
Service/branch United States Air Force
Rank US-OF1A.svg First Lieutenant

Melvin Eugene Carnahan (February 11, 1934 – October 17, 2000) was an American politician. A Democrat, he served as governor of Missouri from 1993 to 2000. He died in a plane crash on the Pevely and Hillsboro, Missouri border during a campaign for the U.S. Senate, after which he was elected posthumously to the office.

Contents

Family life and education

Carnahan was born in Birch Tree, Missouri. His father was A. S. J. Carnahan, who served eight terms in the United States House of Representatives as the Representative from Missouri's 8th congressional district. His only sibling, Robert Carnahan, was president of the Missouri Association of Realtors.

Carnahan graduated from high school in Washington, D.C., and earned a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from George Washington University. He entered the United States Air Force, rising ultimately to first lieutenant, and served as a special agent for the Office of Special Investigation. He received a J.D. from the University of Missouri School of Law in Columbia, Missouri, in 1959.

Carnahan married Jean Carpenter in Washington, D.C. on June 12, 1954. They had four children: Russ Carnahan, a member of the United States House of Representatives; Tom Carnahan, founder of Wind Capital Group which builds wind farms; Robin Carnahan, who was elected in 2004 as Missouri Secretary of State; and Roger "Randy" Carnahan, who piloted the plane and perished in the same crash that killed his father.

Political career

Carnahan's political career started as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives representing the Rolla area. In 1980, Carnahan was elected Missouri State Treasurer. He served in that post from 1981 to 1985. In 1984 he was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Missouri, losing the Democratic primary election to then-Lieutenant Governor Kenneth Rothman, who lost the general election that year to state Attorney General John Ashcroft.

In 1988 he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Missouri. In 1992, he faced Saint Louis Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl in the Democratic primary for governor. He won the Democratic nomination by a wide margin and went on to easily defeat Republican state Attorney General William L. Webster in the general election. He was elected as Governor of Missouri on November 3, 1992 and re-elected for a second term on November 5, 1996, defeating Republican state Auditor Margaret Kelly.

2000 Senate election and death

In 2000, Mel Carnahan ran for U.S. Senate, opposing the incumbent Republican, John Ashcroft. It was a heated, intense campaign in which Carnahan traveled all over the state to garner support in what was a very close race. Early on October 17, 2000, just three weeks before the election and the night before a presidential debate to be held at Washington University in St. Louis, the twin-engine Cessna airplane piloted by the Governor's son, Randy, crashed on a heavily forested hillside during a rainstorm and foggy conditions near Goldman, Missouri, about 35 miles south of St. Louis. All three occupants of the plane - Governor Carnahan, his son Randy, and Chris Sifford, campaign advisor and former chief of staff to the governor - died in the crash.

Shortly afterward, Lieutenant Governor Roger B. Wilson succeeded Mel Carnahan to fill the Governor's office until January 2001. Because Missouri election law would not allow for Mel Carnahan's name to be removed from the November 7, 2000 ballot, Jean Carnahan, his widow, became the Democratic candidate unofficially. Governor Wilson promised to appoint her to the senate seat if vacant as a result of Mr. Carnahan's being elected, and the campaign continued using the slogan "I'm Still With Mel." A Senate first, the deceased Carnahan won by a huge margin of 48,000 votes. Mrs. Carnahan was then appointed to the Senate and served until, in a special election in November 2002, she was narrowly defeated by James Talent, a Republican.

Carnahan is not the only candidate to have died during a U.S. Senate race in recent decades. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota was killed in a plane crash in 2002, 11 days before his U.S. Senate election. Representative Jerry Litton, also of Missouri, died in a plane crash in 1976 on the day he was nominated by his party. Richard "Dick" Obenshain of Virginia died in a plane crash in 1978 shortly after receiving the Republican nomination.

Personal

Carnahan and his family were active members of the First Baptist Church of Rolla, where he served as an ordained deacon and member of the building committee. In 1984, he risked his political career by taking a public stand against Missouri ballot issues, Amendments 5 and 7, which would legalize parimutuel betting and create a state lottery. He was one of only a handful of state elected officials to take such a position; however, both amendments passed.

References

Political offices
Preceded by
Jim Spainhower
State Treasurer of Missouri
1981–1985
Succeeded by
Wendell Bailey
Preceded by
Harriett Woods
Lieutenant Governor of Missouri
1989–1993
Succeeded by
Roger B. Wilson
Preceded by
John Ashcroft
Governor of Missouri
1993–2000
Succeeded by
Roger B. Wilson
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