John Edwards

From Academic Kids

This article is about the American politician, former Senator, and 2004 Vice Presidential candidate. For other uses, see John Edwards (disambiguation).

Template:Infobox Senator

Johnny Reid "John" Edwards (born June 10, 1953) is a former United States Senator from North Carolina. Edwards was one of the major contenders for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, and went on to be the running mate of the unsuccessful 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry.


Childhood and family

Edwards was born in Seneca, South Carolina. He spent his formative years in the town of Robbins, North Carolina. His father was a textile mill production manager, while his mother was a postal employee. Edwards was the first person in his family to attend college, first attending Clemson University and then later transferring to North Carolina State University when his family moved to North Carolina. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in textile technology in 1974, and later earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, both with honors. While at UNC-Chapel Hill, he met and married his wife, fellow law student Mary Elizabeth Anania. When he started his legal career, he began using the name John rather than Johnny.

Edwards and his wife Elizabeth have had four children. Their first two, Wade and Catharine, were born soon after John and Elizabeth's marriage. Just one month prior to the beginning of testimony in the Lakey case in 1996, Edwards lost his 16-year-old son, Wade, in an automobile accident; in remembrance of his son, Edwards wears Wade's Outward Bound pin on his suit jacket. Following Wade's death, Edwards and his wife chose to have children again; their two youngest, Emma Claire (1999) and Jack (2001) The Edwards family resides in Raleigh, North Carolina and Washington DC.

Legal career

Missing image
Four Trials, by John Edwards.

Before entering politics, Edwards was a successful trial attorney who represented families and children that had allegedly been wrongly injured by negligent corporate manufacturers and municipal entities, as well as those allegedly injured by medical malpractice, especially by obstetricians. Edwards made his personal fortune of millions of dollars in the process. Edwards's total net worth is estimated to be between $22 million and $69.7 million. Drawing on his experience in personal injury cases, Edwards has characterized himself as a defender of "the little guy."

A profile of Edwards in the New York Times during the 2004 campaign reported that his first big personal injury case was tried in 1984, winning $3.7 million on behalf of a man allegedly disabled during treatment for alcoholism. In 1985, he won a $6.5 million verdict in a cerebral palsy case in which medical malpractice was alleged, and according to the Times article, "Mr. Edwards filed at least 20 similar lawsuits against doctors and hospitals in deliveries gone wrong, winning verdicts and settlements of more than $60 million, typically keeping about a third." [1] (

The biggest case of his legal career was a personal injury lawsuit against Sta-Rite, the manufacturer of a defective pool drain which disemboweled a Cary, North Carolina girl, on June 24, 1993. Edwards established negligence by showing that the company had been aware of at least twelve similar injuries to other children. Turning down all offers of settlement from the company, Edwards pressed the case forward until he secured a $25,000,000 award from the jury, the largest personal injury award in North Carolina history. Fellow lawyers and law students crowded the courtroom to hear Edwards' closing arguments, while he spoke to the jury for two straight hours without referring to notes in an emotional appeal.

In December 2003, during his presidential campaign, Edwards (with John Auchard) published Four Trials (ISBN 0-74324-4974), a biographical book focusing on his legal career.

Senate term

Both the success of the Lakey case (which Edwards called "the best lawyering of my life") 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 by defeating the favored incumbent Republican, Lauch Faircloth.

Edwards's skill as a trial attorney was evident during President Bill Clinton's 1999 Senate impeachment trial. Edwards, who was responsible for the deposition of witnesses Monica Lewinsky and Vernon Jordan, played a critical role in the Senate proceedings that eventually ended in the President's acquittal. Faced with local polling data showing low approval ratings, Edwards made the fateful decision to go national.

During the 2000 Presidential campaign, Edwards made Democratic nominee Al Gore's Vice Presidential nominee short list (along with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, Gore's eventual pick), and in November 2000, People magazine named Edwards as its choice for the "sexiest politician." Edwards served on several Senate committees, including the prestigious Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

Before the 2004 Senate election, Senator Edwards announced his retirement from the Senate and supported Erskine Bowles, former White House Chief of Staff, as the successor to his seat; Bowles, however, was defeated by Republican Richard Burr in the election.

2004 presidential campaign

Edwards unofficially began his presidential campaign as early as 2001, 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 (a news and political satire show), thus fulfilling a promise he made as a guest during TDS' coverage of the 2002 Mid-Term Elections. The next morning, Edwards made the announcement official from his hometown, Robbins, North Carolina. He declined to run for re-election to the Senate in 2004. Edwards' campaign was chaired by North Carolina Democratic activist Ed Turlington.

As Edwards had been building support for a presidential bid essentially since his election to the Senate, he led the initial campaign fundraising, amassing over $7 million during the first quarter of 2003, more than half of which came from individuals associated with the legal profession, particularly Edwards' fellow trial lawyers, their families, and employees. This also led to various conservative commentators, such as Michael Medved and Rush Limbaugh, criticize Edwards for his links to the trial lawyers.

Edwards's 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 [2] ( His refusal to level direct negative attacks at his fellow Democratic contenders also attracted attention.

After campaigning for most of 2003, Edwards' campaign struggled to gain large support in the Democratic Party. But in early 2004, weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Edwards began to catch fire and his support and poll numbers began to rise steadily. Edwards' late stage momentum, as well as his departure from the negative campaigning which characterized other leading candidates, 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%. Edwards finished with 12% support in the New Hampshire primary one week later, essentially tied for third place position with retired general Wesley Clark. The following week, Edwards won the South Carolina primary and nearly beat Clark in Oklahoma.

After Howard Dean's withdrawal from the contest, Edwards became the only major challenger to Kerry for the Democratic nomination. Remarking on an unexpectedly strong finish in the Wisconsin primary on February 17, Edwards humorously cautioned Kerry: "Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear."

Edwards maintained a positive campaign and largely avoided attacking Kerry until a February 29, 2004 debate in New York, where he attempted to put Kerry on the defensive by characterizing the front-runner as a "Washington insider" and by mocking Kerry's plan to form a committee to examine trade agreements.

Edwards's campaign ended after a disappointing finish in the Super Tuesday primaries on March 2, when Kerry finished well ahead of Edwards in nine of the 10 states voting that day. (Dean, despite having withdrawn from the race two weeks earlier, won his home state of Vermont.) Edwards finished only slightly behind Kerry in Georgia, but, failing to win a single state, chose to withdraw from the presidential race. He announced his official withdrawal at a Raleigh, North Carolina press conference on March 3, 2004.

Missing image
Edwards on the campaign trail in 2004.
News of Edwards's withdrawal from the race made major media outlets relatively early on the evening of Super Tuesday, at about 6:30 PM CST, before polls had closed in California and before caucuses in Minnesota had even begun. This influenced many people in Minnesota to vote for other candidates, which may partially account for the strong showing of Dennis Kucinich in that state. Edwards did win the presidential straw poll conducted by the Independence Party of Minnesota. He also later won the Democratic caucuses in his home state of North Carolina, making him the only Democratic candidate besides John Kerry to win nominating contests in two states.

As the last major contender to withdraw from the race, many political pundits speculated that Edwards's presidential bid was not a "serious" campaign, but merely an attempt to raise his national profile, perhaps to earn a vice-presidential spot on the Democratic ticket.

On July 6, 2004 John Kerry announced, first in an email to his supporters and later in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 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.

After being named the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, Edwards worked for the ticket. On the topic of embryonic stem cell research, Edwards made many wild, unsupported claims concerning stem cell research. Edwards stated at rally in Newton, Iowa on October 11, 2004 "If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again." Commentators have pointed out that the statement was mere Presidential election hyperbole because experts and researchers on all sides of the stem cell debate realize that those types of treatments are at least ten years or more away from productivity and that Edwards's statement was unfairly raising expectations of people stricken with many of the medical conditions that the medical profession is looking to cure. [3] (

The Kerry/Edwards ticket lost the 2004 election. Edwards' presence on the ticket failed to deliver even his home state of North Carolina for the Democrats; although since no Democratic presidential candidate had carried North Carolina since 1976, this was not widely expected. Many pundits speculated that Edwards' presence on the ticket was designed to appeal to rural and middle-class voters in midwestern states.

In the Electoral College, Edwards received 252 votes to Vice President Dick Cheney's 286 votes. Edwards also received 1 Electoral Vote for President.

Post Senate activities

Edwards is widely regarded as a potential candidate for the 2008 U.S. presidential election; his concession speech at the close of the 2004 race 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. Coincidentally, a few months earlier, in February 2004, doctors suggested that the distinctive mole on Edward's upper lip might be developing cancerous properties; he had it removed, although it turned out to be benign.

During the following months, Edwards was courted by a number of organizations; he told interviewer Larry King that he doubted he would return to his occupation as a trial lawyer and showed no interest in the possibility of becoming the Democratic National Committee chairman, a post sought by fellow nomination contender Howard Dean. He finally chose to accept an offer from his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, of a part-time faculty position as director of a new "Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity" at the university. Shortly before the November 2004 election, he had purchased a parcel of land in Orange County, to which his family plans to move after Elizabeth Edwards completes her cancer treatment in Washington, DC.

In February 2005, Edwards headlined the "100 Club" Dinner, a major fundraiser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party; many political pundits speculated that this constituted the beginnings of a campaign for president in 2008.

On February 4 2005, the University of North Carolina announced that John Edwards will be director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity ( in the university for studying ways to move people out of poverty.

On March 21 2005, John Edwards recorded his first podcast [4] ( with his wife.

Issue Stances

While campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, Edwards completed the National Political Awareness Test. Some of Edwards' positions, ideas, and experiences with national issues which made up his campaign platform were:

  • National Service: Edwards believes in increasing military compensation. He supports increasing the servicemen's refundable child tax credit and improving the pay, housing, and health care for American troops. Edwards believes that more needs to be done to support soldiers' families and has introduced legislation to expand child care for families of active duty personnel and reservists.
  • Economy: Edwards proposed a plan to stimulate the economy in the short term while restoring the long-term fiscal discipline and leveling the playing field for American businesses. Edwards has fought for more resources to let individuals and communities recover from trade-related plant closings, and is a proponent of "fairer" trade agreements.
  • Education: Strengthening public schools is one of Edwards's top priorities. Edwards is against private-school voucher plans.
  • Security & Foreign Policy: Edwards believes that the country must be protected, but not by sacrificing rights and freedoms. Edwards believes in America's right to self-defense and working within the framework of international law. [5] (
Edwards supported legislation to improve airport security, increase seaports safety, reduced vulnerability to bioterrorism, and enabled law enforcement agencies to keep known terrorists from entering the country. He cosponsored legislation to strengthen nuclear shipments safety (container strength, shipment escorts, and emergency coordination). Edwards is a proponent of legislation to fight cyberterrorism.
Edwards has proposed a new domestic intelligence agency to fight terrorist cells, strengthening security along borders, making terrorist targets less vulnerable to attack, and developing a better emergency warning system.
  • Immigration: Edward's Senate voting record was more in favor of expanding immigration than the average senator. [6] ( Edwards favors increasing border security, amnesty for illegal aliens, reducing border deaths. Edwards is a proponent of removing the backlog at the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to encourage family reunification. Edwards believes in expediting citizenship applications and waiving the processing fees of immigrants serving in the U.S. armed forces. Edwards opposes the most recent Bush proposal to create a guest worker program without a path to citizenship- however Edwards supported all major expansions of H-1B visas-and was in fact a co-sponsor of such legislation. [7] (
  • Law & Justice: Edwards opposes racial profiling. He favors fostering the due process rights of all those within American borders.
  • Gay Rights: Although Edwards does not support legalization of same-sex marriage, he opposes a Constitutional amendment to define marriage. He supports adoption rights for homosexual couples and overturning the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals in the U.S. military.

External links

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  • One America Committee (
  • Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity (
  • Unofficial Website (
  • July 27, 2004, Democratic National Convention speech: Transcript text (,2933,127391,00.html)
  • October 5th, 2004, Vice Presidential Debate: Transcript text (, Audio ( and Video (
  • Subscribe to the John and Elizabeth Edwards Podcast One America Committee Podcast (

Preceded by:
Lauch Faircloth
Class 3 U.S. Senator from North Carolina
Succeeded by:
Richard Burr
Preceded by:
Joe Lieberman
Democratic Party Vice Presidential candidate
2004 (a) (lost)
Succeeded by:

Template:Succession footnote Template:End boxda:John Edwards de:John Edwards es:John Edwards fa:جان ادواردز fr:John Edwards he:ג'ון אדוארדס nl:John Edwards no:John Edwards pl:John Edwards fi:John Edwards sv:John Edwards tr:John Edwards


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