Edwards stands up for poor in U.S.
Former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards is not running for anything. Not yet, anyway. The North Carolinian is, however, talking...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards is not running for anything.
Not yet, anyway.
The North Carolinian is, however, talking.
And the subject is poverty, not politics.
In Seattle yesterday, Edwards addressed a public-policy coalition, a low-income housing group and a state Democratic banquet.
Today, the one-term senator is expected to speak to a union rally of security guards at Westlake Park.
The Seattle tour follows similar visits Edwards has made in recent weeks to Michigan, Maine and, of course, New Hampshire, which hosts the first presidential primary in 2008.
Edwards is director of the Center of Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an academic think tank.
He hit the road about six months ago to bring the issue to audiences across the country, he said yesterday.
So what's with his political-action committee, which raised $624,000 so far this year?
"What we're doing with the PAC is helping strengthen the Democratic Party from the ground up, which means traveling the country, raising money for local Democrats," Edwards said during an interview.
But, he added, his One America Committee likely will not cut checks directly to other Democrats.
Technically, political-action committee dollars cannot be used to fund the campaign of the lawmaker who created it, but politicians typically use it to travel, set up national organizations and build a donor base.
With polls suggesting the public is growing increasingly concerned about Iraq and the price of gasoline, Edwards might seem out of touch when he exhorts the government to resume President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty.
It is a continuation of Edwards' description of two Americas in the 2004 presidential race, when he served as Sen. John Kerry's running mate.
But in a speech to the Progressive Legislative Action Network at Pier 66 yesterday, Edwards said poverty would resonate louder if politicians did a better job of championing the poor, who are mostly working women with children.
"These are the people the American people would embrace if they just heard their stories," Edwards said.
As for the polls that indicate little interest in the topic, Edwards retorted: "That's our [Democrats'] job, isn't it? Our job is not to follow, it is to lead. Our job is to show the country where it needs to go."
Edwards said he had no idea whether poverty would become a major concern to voters next year, or in 2008.
And he said he didn't care.
"I work on poverty because I think it's the right thing to do. I don't think there's any way to predict what the leading issue will be in the next two to four years."
Regardless of his political future, Edwards' personal fortunes have taken a turn for the better.
His wife, Elizabeth, who announced she had breast cancer after the November election, is doing fine, he said, and her doctors are confident of a full recovery.
Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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