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Former VP Mondale Dies at 93           04/20 06:10

   

   MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, a liberal icon 
who lost one of the most lopsided presidential elections after bluntly telling 
voters to expect a tax increase if he won, died Monday. He was 93.

   The death of the former senator, ambassador and Minnesota attorney general 
was announced in a statement from his family. No cause was cited.

   Mondale followed the trail blazed by his political mentor, Hubert H. 
Humphrey, from Minnesota politics to the U.S. Senate and the vice presidency, 
serving under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.

   In a statement Monday night, Carter said he considered Mondale "the best 
vice president in our country's history." He added: "Fritz Mondale provided us 
all with a model for public service and private behavior."

   President Joe Biden said of Mondale: "There have been few senators, before 
or since, who commanded such universal respect. ... It was Walter Mondale who 
defined the vice presidency as a full partnership, and helped provide a model 
for my service."

   Mondale's own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald 
Reagan's popularity. His selection of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his 
running mate made him the first major-party presidential nominee to put a woman 
on the ticket, but his declaration that he would raise taxes helped define the 
race.

   On Election Day, he carried only his home state and the District of 
Columbia. The electoral vote was 525-13 for Reagan -- the biggest landslide in 
the Electoral College since Franklin Roosevelt defeated Alf Landon in 1936. 
(Sen. George McGovern got 17 electoral votes in his 1972 defeat, winning 
Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.)

   "I did my best," Mondale said the day after the election, and blamed no one 
but himself.

   "I think you know I've never really warmed up to television," he said. "In 
fairness to television, it never really warmed up to me."

   Years later, Mondale said his campaign message had proven to be the right 
one.

   "History has vindicated me that we would have to raise taxes," he said. "It 
was very unpopular, but it was undeniably correct."

   In 2002, state and national Democrats looked to Mondale when Sen. Paul 
Wellstone, D-Minn., was killed in a plane crash less than two weeks before 
Election Day. Mondale agreed to stand in for Wellstone, and early polls showed 
him with a lead over the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman.

   But the 53-year-old Coleman, emphasizing his youth and vigor, out-hustled 
the then-74-year-old Mondale in an intense six-day campaign. Mondale was also 
hurt by a partisan memorial service for Wellstone, in which thousands of 
Democrats booed Republican politicians in attendance. One speaker pleaded: "We 
are begging you to help us win this election for Paul Wellstone."

   Polls showed the service put off independents and cost Mondale votes. 
Coleman won by 3 percentage points.

   "The eulogizers were the ones hurt the most," Mondale said after the 
election. "It doesn't justify it, but we all make mistakes. Can't we now find 
it in our hearts to forgive them and go on?"

   It was a particularly bitter defeat for Mondale, who even after his loss to 
Reagan had taken solace in his perfect record in Minnesota.

   "One of the things I'm most proud of," he said in 1987, "is that not once in 
my public career did I ever lose an election in Minnesota."

   Years after the 2002 defeat, Mondale returned to the Senate to stand beside 
Democrat Al Franken in 2009 when he was sworn in to replace Coleman after a 
drawn-out recount and court battle.

   Mondale started his career in Washington in 1964, when he was appointed to 
the Senate to replace Humphrey, who had resigned to become vice president. 
Mondale was elected to a full six-year term with about 54% of the vote in 1966, 
although Democrats lost the governorship and suffered other election setbacks. 
In 1972, Mondale won another Senate term with nearly 57% of the vote.

   His Senate career was marked by advocacy of social issues such as education, 
housing, migrant workers and child nutrition. Like Humphrey, he was an 
outspoken supporter of civil rights.

   Mondale tested the waters for a presidential bid in 1974 but ultimately 
decided against it. "Basically I found I did not have the overwhelming desire 
to be president, which is essential for the kind of campaign that is required," 
he said in November 1974.

   In 1976, Carter chose Mondale as No. 2 on his ticket and went on to unseat 
Gerald Ford.

   As vice president, Mondale had a close relationship with Carter. He was the 
first vice president to occupy an office in the White House, rather than in a 
building across the street. Mondale traveled extensively on Carter's behalf, 
and advised him on domestic and foreign affairs.

   While he lacked Humphrey's charisma, Mondale had a droll sense of humor.

   When he dropped out of the 1976 presidential sweepstakes, he said, "I don't 
want to spend the next two years in Holiday Inns."

   Reminded of that shortly before he was picked as Carter's running mate, 
Mondale said, "I've checked and found that they're all redecorated, and they're 
marvelous places to stay."

   Mondale never backed away from his liberal principles.

   "I think that the country more than ever needs progressive values," Mondale 
said in 1989.

   That year, Democrats tried to persuade him to challenge Minnesota GOP Sen. 
Rudy Boschwitz, but he decided against making the race, saying it was time to 
make way for a new generation.

   "One of the requirements of a healthy party is that it renews itself," he 
said at the time. "You can't keep running Walter Mondale for everything."

   That paved the way for Wellstone to win the Democratic nomination, and go on 
to upset Boschwitz. Wellstone had been preparing to take on Mondale in a 
primary but would have been a heavy underdog.

   The son of a Methodist minister and a music teacher, Walter Frederick 
Mondale was born Jan. 5, 1928, in tiny Ceylon, Minnesota, and grew up in 
several small southern Minnesota towns.

   He was only 20 when he served as a congressional district manager for 
Humphrey's successful Senate campaign in 1948. His education, interrupted by a 
two-year stint in the Army, culminated with a law degree from the University of 
Minnesota in 1956.

   Mondale began a law practice in Minneapolis and ran the successful 1958 
gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Orville Freeman, who appointed Mondale state 
attorney general in 1960. Mondale was elected attorney general in the fall of 
1960 and was reelected in 1962.

   As attorney general, Mondale moved quickly into civil rights, antitrust and 
consumer protection cases. He was the first Minnesota attorney general to make 
consumer protection a campaign issue.

   After his White House years, Mondale served from 1993-96 as President Bill 
Clinton's ambassador to Japan, fighting for U.S. access to markets ranging from 
cars to cellular phones.

   He helped avert a trade war in June 1995 over autos and auto parts, 
persuading Japanese officials to give American automakers more access to 
Japanese dealers and pushing Japanese carmakers to buy U.S. parts.

   Mondale kept his ties to the Clintons. In 2008, he endorsed Sen. Hillary 
Rodham Clinton for president, switching his allegiance only after Barack Obama 
sealed the nomination.

   When Democrats came to him after Wellstone's death, Mondale was working at 
the Minneapolis law firm of Dorsey & Whitney and serving on corporate and 
nonprofit boards. He returned to the firm after the brief campaign.

   Mondale and his wife, Joan Adams Mondale, were married in 1955. During his 
vice presidency, she pushed for more government support of the arts and gained 
the nickname "Joan of Art." She had minored in art in college and worked at 
museums in Boston and Minneapolis.

   The couple had two sons, Ted and William, and a daughter, Eleanor. Ted 
Mondale served six years in the Minnesota Senate and made an unsuccessful bid 
for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1998. William Mondale served for 
a time as an assistant attorney general. Eleanor Mondale, who became a 
broadcast journalist and TV host, died of brain cancer in 2011.

   Joan Mondale died in 2014 at age 83 after an extended illness.

 
 
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