Rolla, Mo. Declaring that "we worked as partners" during almost a half-century of marriage, Jean Carnahan said Monday she would accept appointment as a U.S. senator if her late husband outpolls Republican Sen. John Ashcroft on Nov. 7.
Mrs. Carnahan, 66, is a grandmother of two who never sought nor held public office. But two weeks after a small plane crash that killed two-term Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan, the couple's eldest son Roger and campaign aide Chris Sifford, the widow declared herself strong enough to stand in for her late husband.
"This campaign has never been about one person," Mrs. Carnahan said as close family members stood by and 15 TV cameras captured her words.
She said her husband's "vision for Missouri's families can prevail, if we want it to."
Mrs. Carnahan's announcement added another twist to an election thrown into turmoil. The race had been among the nation's most bitterly fought and intensely watched, and independent polls had the two men locked for months in a statistical tie.
But even that was changing.
Media polls taken after Mel Carnahan's burial showed the Senate race still even.
A Zogby International poll conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis television station KMOV had Mel Carnahan with 47.2 percent support against 45.4 percent backing for Ashcroft, a result within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
But Mel Carnahan's lead grew to a margin of 49.4 percent to 44.3 percent after participants in the Zogby poll were told that Mrs. Carnahan had been asked to serve. The poll was conducted Oct. 24-25.
Mel Carnahan's name remains on the ballot because he died after a state deadline for removing it.