The 2002 United States Special Senate election in Missouri was held on November 5, 2002 to decide who would serve the rest of Senator Mel Carnahan's term, after he died. The winner would serve four more years until the next election in 2006. Roger Wilson appointed Carnahan's wife Jean to serve temporarily. She then decided to run to serve the remainder of the term. Republican nominee Jim Talent defeated her narrowly.
In the November 2000 elections, Mel Carnahan, who had died in a plane crash three weeks before, remained on the ballot for election to the Senate. Carnahan received more votes than his Republican opponent, John Ashcroft, who did not legally contest being defeated by a dead candidate. Carnahan's successor as Governor, Roger B. Wilson, fulfilled his pre-election to appoint Carnahan's widow, Jean, in her husband's place.
The Seventeenth Amendment requires that appointments to the Senate last only until a special election is held.
Jack Abramoff contributed $2,000 to Talent's 2002 senatorial campaign and Preston Gates & Ellis, a former Abramoff employer, had also contributed $1,000 to Talent's campaign. Talent later returned both contributions.
Talent has been criticized for not returning the money received from Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), a PAC formed by Tom DeLay. DeLay is facing charges of money laundering and violation of campaign finance laws. A spokesman for Talent has stated that Talent has not yet made a decision about whether or not to return the ARMPAC contribution, stating "Senator Talent is not ready to presume guilt or innocence and wants to give the judicial process a chance to move forward."  During his tenure, Talent served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Special Committee on Aging, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, and Energy and Natural Resources Committee.