The 2000 United States Senate election in Missouri was held on November 7, 2000 to select the next Senator from Missouri. Incumbent John Ashcroft lost re-election to Mel Carnahan, who had died in a plane crash several weeks before election day.
In 1998, incumbent John Ashcroft (R) briefly considered running for president, but on January 5, 1999, he announced that he would not seek the presidency and would instead defend his Senate seat in his 2000 reelection. Ashcroft was first challenged in the Republican primary, defeating Marc Perkel.
In the general election, Ashcroft faced a challenge from then-Governor Mel Carnahan. In the midst of a tight race, Carnahan died in an airplane crash two weeks prior to the November general election. However, Carnahan's name remained on the ballot due to Missouri state election laws. Lieutenant Governor Roger Wilson became Governor upon Carnahan's death. Wilson announced that should Carnahan be elected he would appoint his widow, Jean Carnahan, to serve in her husband's place; Mrs. Carnahan agreed to this arrangement. Ashcroft suspended all campaigning after the plane crash in light of the tragedy.
Voters elected Mel Carnahan, although dead, by a narrow margin. No one had ever posthumously won election to the Senate, though voters on at least three occasions chose deceased candidates for the House (Nick Begich, Hale Boggs, and Patsy Mink).
This loss was despite having a larger budget than Carnahan that included controversial contributions from corporations such as Monsanto Company (headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri), which contributed five times more to Ashcroft than to any other congressional hopeful at the time. He thereby became the first Senate incumbent ever defeated for re-election by a dead man's name on the ballot (it was understood that Mel Carnahan's wife, Jean Carnahan, would assume the position if he won election).
Although under Missouri law, Mel Caranahan could not legally win, since he was dead and therefore did not "live" in the state, and Ashcroft was the legal winner of the election (having received the most votes of the legally qualified candidates), Ashcroft did not contest the election certification of the DemocraticMissouri Secretary of State.