John Reid Edwards
b: June 10, 1953
John Edwards is currently the junior United States senator from North Carolina and is the presumptive Democratic Party Vice-Presidential nominee for 2004.
Johnny Reid Edwards was born in Seneca, South Carolina on June 10, 1953, to Wallace and Catharine Edwards. Wallace worked at a nearby textile mill and Catharine worked for the U.S. Postal Service. John's childhood was typical of that of a lower middle class family in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1970, he became the first member of his family to attend college, first at Clemson University where he attempted to gain a football scholarship, then later at North Carolina State University, where he earned a degree in textile technology. Edwards later earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina.
Edwards spent almost twenty years as a practicing trial attorney in North Carolina, focusing primarily on wrongful injury suits. Edwards regularly took on cases representing families and children who had allegedly been injured by negligent corporations or municipalities.
The highlight of Edwards' legal career came in 1996, in which he represented Valerie Lakey against Sta-Rite, who manufactured a defective pool drain which seriously injured Ms. Lakey. Ignoring several offers to settle out of court, Edwards pressed onward and won a $25 million settlement, which was the largest personal injury award in North Carolina history to the time. Edwards' two hour long closing argument, done completely without notes, was considered decisive in the case.
Edwards met and married his wife, Elizabeth, while studying law at the University of North Carolina. The couple had two children shortly after marriage, Wade (born in 1980) and Catherine (born in 1981). In 1996, just before testimony began in the Lakey case, Wade Edwards died in an automobile accident (if you happen to notice an Outward Bound pin on Edwards' suit jacket, it is worn in memory of Wade). After Wade's death, John and Elizabeth decided to have two more children, Emma (born in 1999) and Jack (born in 2001).
Fresh from the success of the Lakey case and still suffering from the heartache of the death of Wade, Edwards ran for the United States Senate as a Democrat in 1998 and surprised many by ousting the Republican incumbent, Lauch Faircloth. In late 2003, Edwards decided not to seek re-election to his Senate seat.
Edwards got a great chance to shine early in his Senatorial career during Bill Clinton's 1999 Senate impeachment trial, in which he was able to use his legal instinct in acquiring crucial depositions from Vernon Jordan and Monica Lewinski. These depositions were key in Clinton's case, which eventually ended in the President's acquittal. Due to this early success, Edwards made the short list of potential Vice Presidential nominees for Al Gore in 2000, which likely provided him with the motivation to run himself in 2004.
As of June 30, 2004, John Edwards had, in his entire legislative career, been a primary sponsor of 160 items that appeared before Congress in some capacity. Of these items:
76 bills, 1 of which emerged beyond committee
78 amendments, 23 of which passed the Senate
6 resolutions, 4 of which passed the Senate
Each number is eaily verifiable using the THOMAS legislative database, available at http://thomas.loc.gov.
The sole legislative act sponsored by John Edwards in his time in the Senate that actually became law was Public Law 108-253, which came about as a result of S.2153. This shining piece of legislation? S.2153 designates the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 223 South Main Street in Roxboro, North Carolina, as the "Oscar Scott Woody Post Office Building".
As early as 2001, Edwards began making speeches in Iowa, outlining his vision of "two Americas" and honing his populist rhetoric. By September 2003, after a successful round of fundraising brought him more than $7 million for campaigning purposes (most from fellow trial lawyers), Edwards felt prepared to declare his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The primary criticism of Edwards' candidacy was not his ability to speak, his policy stances, or his charisma; he was strong in all of these areas. His primary flaw was his background in politics: did he have enough background in positions of political leadership to be President?
The story of Edwards' campaign is that of catching fire just a bit too late. Edwards claimed a surprising second place in the early Iowa primary and managed to claim victory in the South Carolina primary, followed shortly by a very close second place finish to eventual nominee John Kerry in Wisconsin on February 17, 2004. Unfortunately, Edwards rise in popularity was a bit late, and as his delegate total began to be dwarfed by John Kerry's momentum, he withdrew from the race on March 3, 2004.
The story doesn't end there, however; on July 6, 2004, John Kerry named Edwards as his running mate for the 2004 Presidential election.
Political Stances of John Edwards
John Edwards' political stancer are nicely summarized by his responses to the NPAT, available at http://www.vote-smart.org/npat.php?can_id=CNC68243. Summaries of his stances follow, mostly from direct quotes from his filled-in responses from the NPAT:
Abortion: Edwards supports a woman's right to choose and believe this that right is constitutionally protected. He also supports funding for family planning.
Budget Priorities: Edwards supports increased funding for education, health care, homeland security, and other priorities; funding for a strong national defense; tax fairness, including repeal of the Bush tax cuts for those making over $200,000; and tax cuts for the middle class and working poor.
Campaign Finance Reform: Edwards supports a ban on contributions by federal lobbyists to federal officials, public financing of elections, and other measures to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington.
Crime: Edwards supports greater emphasis on drug treatment and elimination of mandatory minimums for certain non-violent crimes; he's also in favor of the death penalty and reform of our probation and parole systems to provide more support and supervision.
Drugs: Edwards supports keeping drugs out of the United States and vigorous prosecution of drug sales along with greater funding for drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders such as drug courts.
Education: Edwards supports higher pay for teachers, especially in low-income schools. Beyond this, Edwards is in favor of smaller high schools, afterschool programs, and offering a free year of college at a public university to students who work 10 hours per week.
Employment / Affirmative Action: Edwards supports affirmative action, as well as job training programs, an increase in the minimum wage, greater protection for unionization, and greater help for Americans balancing work and families.
Environment: Edwards supports strong environmental protection, higher CAFE standards, protection of ANWR, and American leadership in the world's battle against global warming.
Gun Control: Edwards believes the right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment, but supports reasonable measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, including closing the gun show loophole and vigorously enforcing gun laws.
Health Care: Edwards supports a health care plan that would cover every child and millions of vulnerable adults, and also bring down health costs for all Americans, backed by a strong Patient's Bill of Rights, a prescription drug benefit in Medicare, and stem cell research.
Immigration: Edwards supports policies that welcome immigrants and protect our security, including an earned legalization program for those who work hard and play by the rules.
International Aid: Edwards would reorient U.S. assitance toward supporting open societies, giving more aid to nongovernmental bodies, and would cut assistance to dictators uninterested in democracy and upholding human rights.
International Policy: Edwards would immediately turn over oversight of the civilian authority in Iraq to the United Nations, but would provide military support to ensure democracy and counter any insurgencies. Edwards would urgently work to end North Korea's nuclear program, and would support any reforms that would enable better preparation for United Nations peacekeeping forces.
National Security: Edwards believes that we must protect our country, but we cannot sacrifice the rights and freedoms that define America; we must respect international law when making decisions for ourselves.
Social Security: Edwards opposes diversion of payroll taxes into private accounts, but would support offering matching accounts to workers on top of Social Security; he also opposes raising the retirement age and cutting COLAs.
Welfare: Edwards would increase the Earned Income Tax Credit and would provide more support for child care and transportation, as well as lead efforts to ensure that fathers take responsibility for their children.