DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE - JOHN EDWARDS
Johnny Reid "John" Edwards, an American politician and a one-term U.S. Senator from North Carolina, was a trial lawyer before entering politics. During his six-year term as Senator, he sought the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election. He eventually became the Democratic candidate for Vice President, the running mate of presidential nominee Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. After Edwards and Kerry lost the election, Edwards began working full time at the One America Committee, a political action committee he established in 2001 and was appointed director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law. He was also a consultant for Fortress Investment Group LLC.
Edwards was born on June 10, 1953 to Wallace Reid Edwards and Catharine Juanita "Bobbie" Wade in Seneca, South Carolina. The family moved several times during Edwards' childhood, eventually settling in Robbins, North Carolina, where his father worked as a textile mill floor worker, eventually promoted to supervisor; his mother worked as a postal letter carrier when his father left his job. Edwards was the first person in his family to attend college, enrolling in Clemson University and later transferring to North Carolina State University. Edwards graduated with a bachelor's degree in textile technology in 1974 from North Carolina State University, and later earned his law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), both with honors.
While at UNC, he met fellow student and eventual partner Elizabeth Anania. They married in the summer of 1977 and had four children, Wade, Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack. In 1996, Wade, age 16, was killed in a car accident when strong winds swept his Jeep off a North Carolina highway. After Wade's death, Elizabeth quit practicing as an attorney and Edwards decided to go into politics, running for the Senate the next year. Edwards wore Wade's Outward Bound pin on his lapel throughout the 2004 presidential campaign. He and his wife began the Wade Edwards Foundation in their son's memory; the purpose of the nonprofit organization is "to reward, encourage, and inspire young people in the pursuit of excellence." The Foundation funded the Wade Edwards Learning Lab at Wade's high school, Broughton High School in Raleigh, along with scholarship competitions and essay awards. Just weeks before Wade died, he had been honored at the White House by First Lady Hillary Clinton for an essay he wrote on entering the voting booth with his father.
Before running for political office, John Edwards was a personal injury trial attorney, specializing in representing people who were alleged victims of corporate negligence and/or medical malpractice. Edwards' first notable case was a 1984 medical malpractice lawsuit. As a young associate, he got the assignment because it was considered a losing case; the firm had only accepted it as a favor to an attorney and state senator who did not want to keep it. Nevertheless, Edwards won a $3.7 million verdict on behalf of his client, who suffered permanent brain and nerve damage after a doctor prescribed a drug overdose of anti-alcoholism drug Antabuse during alcohol aversion therapy. In other cases, Edwards sued the American Red Cross three times, alleging transmission of AIDS through tainted blood products, resulting in a confidential settlement each time, and defended a North Carolina newspaper against a libel charge.
In 1985, Edwards tried a case involving medical malpractice during childbirth, representing a five-year-old child born with cerebral palsy whose doctor did not choose to perform an immediate Caesarian delivery when a fetal monitor showed she was in distress. Edwards won a $6.5 million settlement for his client, but five weeks later, the presiding judge sustained the verdict but overturned the award as being "excessive." He offered the plaintiffs half of the jury's settlement, but the child's family appealed the case and settled for $4.25 million. Winning this case established the North Carolina precedent of physician and hospital liability for failing to determine if the patient understood risks of a particular procedure. After this trial, Edwards gained national attention as a plaintiff's lawyer. He filed at least 20 similar lawsuits in the years following and achieved verdicts and settlements of more than $60 million for his clients. These successful lawsuits were followed by similar ones across the country. When asked about an increase in Caesarean deliveries nationwide, perhaps to avoid similar medical malpractice lawsuits, Edwards said, "The question is, would you rather have cases where that happens instead of having cases where you don't intervene and a child either becomes disabled for life or dies in utero?"
In 1993, Edwards began his own firm in Raleigh with a friend, David Kirby, and became known as the top plaintiffs' attorney in North Carolina. The biggest case of his legal career was a 1997 product liability lawsuit against Sta-Rite, the manufacturer of a defective pool drain cover. The case involved a three-year-old girl who was disemboweled by the suction power of the pool drain pump when she sat on an open pool drain whose protective cover other children at the pool had removed, after the swim club had failed to install the cover properly. Despite 12 prior suits with similar claims, Sta-Rite continued to make and sell drain covers lacking warnings. Sta-Rite protested that an additional warning would have made no difference because the pool owners already knew the importance of keeping the cover secured. In his closing arguments, Edwards spoke to the jury for an hour and a half without referring to notes. It was an emotional appeal that made reference to his son, Wade, who had been killed shortly before testimony began in the trial. Mark Dayton, editor of North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, would later call it "the most impressive legal performance I have ever seen." The jury awarded the family $25 million, the largest personal injury award in North Carolina history. The company settled for the $25 million while the jury was deliberating additional punitive damages. For their part in this case, Edwards and law partner David Kirby earned the Association of Trial Lawyers of America's national award for public service. The family said that they hired Edwards over other attorneys because he alone had offered to accept a smaller percentage as fee unless the settlement was unexpectedly high, while all of the other lawyers they spoke with said they required the full one-third fee. The size of the settlement was unprecedented and Edwards did receive the standard one-third plus expenses fee typical of contingency cases. The family was so impressed with his intelligence and commitment that they volunteered for his Senate campaign the next year.
Both the success of the Sta-Rite case and his son's death (Edwards had hoped his son would eventually join him in private law practice) prompted Edwards to leave the legal profession and seek public office. A Democrat, Edwards won election to the U.S. Senate in 1998 against incumbent Republican Senator Lauch Faircloth. Despite originally being the underdog, Edwards beat Faircloth by 51.2% to 47.0% — a margin of some 83,000 votes. During President Bill Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial in the Senate, Edwards was responsible for the deposition of witnesses Monica Lewinsky and fellow Democrat Vernon Jordan. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Edwards was reported to be on Democratic nominee Al Gore's vice presidential nominee "short list" (along with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, Gore's eventual pick). In November 2000, People magazine named Edwards as its choice for the "sexiest politician alive." Edwards served on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary.
During his Senate term Edwards cosponsored 203 bills. He cosponsored Lieberman's S.J.RES.46, the Iraq War Resolution, later voting for it in the full Senate, but subsequently apologized for the military authorization vote. Edwards also supported and voted for the Patriot Act, supported abortion rights, affirmative action, and the death penalty. Among his first sponsored bills was the Fragile X Research Breakthrough Act of 1999. He was also the first person to introduce comprehensive anti-spyware legislation with the Spyware Control and Privacy Protection Act. He also advocated rolling back the Bush administration's tax cuts and ending mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent offenders. In addition, Edwards supported the expansion of the H-1B visa program to increase the number of work visas for immigrant workers and generally supported expanding legal immigration to the United States while working with Mexico to provide better border security and stop illegal trafficking. Edwards unofficially began his presidential campaign as early as 2000 , when he began to seek speaking engagements in Iowa, the site of the nation's first party caucuses. On September 15, 2003, Edwards unofficially announced his intention to seek the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, thus fulfilling a promise he made as a guest during the show's coverage of the 2002 midterm elections. The next morning, Edwards made the announcement officially from his hometown.
Edwards' campaign was often characterized by the American news media as populist. His stump speech spoke of "two Americas", one composed of the wealthy and privileged, and the other of the hard-working common man. In early 2004, weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Edwards began to gain momentum and poll numbers began to rise steadily. Edwards' late-stage momentum carried him into a surprising second place finish in Iowa with the support of 32% of caucus delegates, behind only John Kerry's 39% and ahead of former front-runner Howard Dean at 18%. After Dean's withdrawal from the contest, Edwards became the only major challenger to Kerry for the Democratic nomination. Edwards' campaign ended after a disappointing finish in the Super Tuesday primaries on March 2, and he announced his official withdrawal on March 3, 2004. On July 6, 2004 Kerry announced that Edwards would be his vice presidential running mate. Kerry's decision was widely hailed by Democratic voters in public opinion polls and by Democratic leaders in interviews. According to sources close to Kerry, other individuals said to have been under consideration for the vice presidential nomination by the Kerry campaign were Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, Florida Senator Bob Graham, Clark, and Congressman Richard Gephardt.
Edwards' concession speech at the close of the 2004 Presidential Election hinted at his continued presidential ambitions: "You can be disappointed, but you cannot walk away. This fight has just begun." The following day, he announced that his wife Elizabeth had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was treated via chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and continued to remain an activist for women, cancer patients, the Democratic Party, and her husband's One America Committee. In February 2005, Edwards headlined the "100 Club" Dinner, a major fundraiser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. That same month, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced that he had been appointed as director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity in the university for studying ways to move people out of poverty. That fall, Edwards toured 10 major universities in order to promote "Opportunity Rocks!", a program aimed at getting youth involved in the fight against poverty.
In August of 2005, Edwards traveled to Waterloo, Iowa to deliver an address to the state's chapter of the AFL-CIO, a potential key supporter in the Iowa caucus. In the following month Edwards sent an email to his supporters and announced that he opposed the nomination of Judge John Roberts to become Chief Justice of the United States. He was also opposed to the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito. During the summer and fall of 2005, he toured the country, promoting various progressive causes. He visited homeless shelters and job training centers and spoke at events organized by such groups as ACORN, the NAACP, and the SEIU. He spoke out in favor of an expansion of the earned income tax credit, a crackdown on predatory lending, an increase in the capital gains tax rate, housing vouchers for minorities to integrate upper-income neighborhoods, and a program modeled on the Works Progress Administration to rehabilitate the Gulf Coast following the effects of Hurricane Katrina. In low-income Greene County, North Carolina he unveiled the pilot program for College for Everyone, an educational measure he promised during his presidential campaign, in which prospective college students will receive a scholarship for their first year in exchange for ten hours of work a week.
On December 28, 2006, John Edwards officially announced his candidacy for President in the 2008 election. Edwards' campaign focus is on eliminating poverty, fighting global warming, and providing universal health care. Edwards has also become a strong critic of the war in Iraq and a proponent of withdrawal. He denounced the plan for a troop surge in Iraq, coining it the McCain Doctrine. Later in January, 2007, Edwards spoke at New York City's Riverside Church where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his April 4, 1967 anti-war Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence speech. In the speech Edwards criticized silence on the "escalation of the war in Iraq."
In February 2007, Edwards was the first Democratic candidate to release a detailed plan, including cost estimates, for universal health care, making the issue one of his campaign's primary focus areas. Edwards' plan would require everyone to have medical insurance much like mandatory auto insurance, by subsidizing health insurance purchases for poorer Americans, and requiring employers to offer coverage through the public Medicare system in addition to offering private coverage. Individuals not covered by employer plans would have similar choices. Since Medicare has lower administrative costs, Edwards believes that individuals will be able to save on health care by using the public option. The plan states that "over time, the system may evolve toward a single-payer approach if individuals and businesses prefer the public plan" and make Medicare the de facto national health program. The Edwards health care plan, estimated by his campaign spokesman to cost between $90 and $120 billion per year, would be paid for in part by eliminating the 2001 tax cuts for individuals earning more than $200,000 per year. Edwards said "The bottom line is we're asking everybody to share in the responsibility of making health care work in this country. Employers, those who are in the medical insurance business, employees, the American people — everyone will have to contribute in order to make this work."
On March 22, 2007, Edwards and his wife announced that she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, with newly discovered metastases to the bone and possibly to her lung. They said that the cancer was "no longer curable, but is completely treatable" and that they planned to continue campaigning together with an occasional break when Ms. Edwards requires treatment, saying "The campaign goes on strongly." This ended erroneous media speculation prior to the press conference that Edwards would announce a suspension of his campaign.
JOHN EDWARDS QUOTES
"And, to be clear, when I am president, this game where Congress sacrifices the health care interests of the American people for the financial interests of lobbyists will come to end. I'm going to say to members of Congress and members of my administration, including my cabinet: I'm glad that you have health care coverage and your family has health care coverage. But if you don't pass universal health care by July of 2009 – in six months – I'm going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you. There's no excuse for politicians in Washington having health care when the American people don't have health care."
"The engine of our economy is not Washington, D.C., or Wall Street. It is the tens of millions of men and women in offices, factories and fields across America who go to work every day trying to do right by their families. When our middle class grows, our whole economy grows."
"Trade has become a bad word for working Americans for a simple reason: our trade policy has been bad for working Americans. We need new trade policies that put workers, wages and families first."
"I believe we cannot go on as Two Americas—one favored, the other forgotten—if we plan to stay productive, competitive and secure. I want to live in an America where we value work as well as wealth. I know that together we can build One America – a place where everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream."
"We don't need debate; we don't need non-binding resolutions; we need to end this war. In order to get the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving."
"We are not the country of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. We are not the country of secret surveillance and government behind closed doors. We are Americans, and we're better than that."
"Our nation now stands at the pinnacle of its power, but it also faces serious challenges. Today, we need a national security policy for the twenty-first century that will not only respond to threats but apply all our resources to the critical goal of preventing such threats in the first place. We can be strong, secure, and good, and we can build a more hopeful future. Our national security policy should be designed to reach these goals. We must do everything in our power to reclaim the United States' historic role as a beacon for the world and become, once again, a shining example for other nations to follow."
"Our generation must be the one that says, 'we must halt global warming.' If we don't act now, it will be too late. Our generation must be the one that says 'yes' to alternative, renewable fuels and ends forever our dependence on foreign oil. Our generation must be the one that accepts responsibility for conserving natural resources and demands the tools to do it. And our generation must be the one that builds the New Energy Economy. It won't be easy, but it is time to ask the American people to be patriotic about something other than war."
"The basis of a strong democracy is a diverse and dynamic media. It's time to take away the corporate media bullhorn and let America's many voices be heard."
"I believe in a sacred contract between our country and America's veterans and military families. We must stand by those who stand by us. When our service men and women sacrifice so much to defend our freedom and secure peace around the world, we have a moral obligation to take care of them and their families."
"I believe that everyone in America—regardless of the family you were born into, the color of your skin or the country your family came from—should have an equal chance to build a better life."
"Building One America means ensuring that women can make choices in their lives with dignity and can participate in our society fully, as equals. The reality of women's lives today is still something far less. They are expected to do more, and they receive less. That's not right."
"It's time for a new kind of declaration of independence—a commitment to helping older Americans live independently, with choice over their health care, financial security and lifestyle. It's not enough to congratulate ourselves on living longer, if we are not living stronger."
"I have spent my entire life battling special interest groups to protect the rights of regular Americans. In courtrooms, I stood with families who needed a voice against armies of insurance company lawyers. In the Senate, I championed the Patients' Bill of Rights to fight managed care and insurance company abuses. I've seen first-hand how far too often health insurance companies will put profit and executive bonuses above the medical needs of their customers."
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