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 promise to appoint Carnahan's widow in her husband's place.
The Seventeenth Amendment requires that appointments to the Senate last only until a special election is held.
National security and Carnahan's vote against fellow Missourian John Ashcroft as attorney general were major issues in the campaign. Republicans argued Carnahan owed her vote to Ashcroft, who had lost his bid for re-election to the Senate to Carnahan's husband. Talent, citing Carnahan's votes against homeland-security legislation and missile defense, accused her of being soft on national security, which she objected to, saying he was "doubt[ing] her patriotism."
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's win returned Republican control of the Senate which had been under slight Democratic dominance resulting from Vermont junior senator Jim Jeffords's decision to renounce the GOP, turning independent and making the choice to caucus with the Democrats.