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Johnny Reid "John" Edwards (born June 10, 1953) is an American politician who served one term as U.S. Senator from North Carolinamarker. He was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2004, and was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008.

He defeated incumbent Republican Lauch Faircloth in North Carolina's 1998 Senate election and toward the end of his six-year term sought the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2004 presidential election.

He eventually became the 2004 Democratic candidate for vice-president, the running mate of presidential nominee Senator John Kerry of Massachusettsmarker. After Edwards and Kerry lost the election to incumbents President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, 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 Hillmarker School of Lawmarker. He was also a consultant for Fortress Investment Group LLC.

Personal life

Early life and education

Edwards was born June 10, 1953 to Wallace Reid Edwards and Catharine Juanita "Bobbie" Edwards (née Wade) in Senecamarker, South Carolinamarker. The family moved several times during Edwards' childhood, eventually settling in Robbins, North Carolinamarker, where his father worked as a textile mill floor worker, eventually promoted to supervisor; his mother had a roadside antique finishing business and then worked as a postal letter carrier when his father left his job.

A football star in high school, Edwards was the first person in his family to attend college. He attended Clemson Universitymarker and transferred to North Carolina State Universitymarker. Edwards graduated with high honors earning a bachelor's degree in textile technology in 1974, and later earned his Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina School of Lawmarker (UNC) with honors.


While at UNC, he met Elizabeth Anania, who is four years his senior. They married in 1977 and eventually had four children (Wade in 1979, Cate in 1982, Emma Claire in 1998, and Jack in 2000). Their son Wade was killed in a car accident when strong winds swept his Jeep off a North Carolina highway in 1996. Three weeks before his death, Wade Edwards was honored by First Lady Hillary Clinton at The White Housemarker as one of the 10 finalists in an essay contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Voice of America for an essay he wrote on entering the voting booth with his father. Wade, accompanied by his parents and sister, went on to meet North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, who entered Wade's essay and his obituary into the Congressional Record. Edwards 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 Raleighmarker, along with scholarship competitions and essay awards.

On November 3, 2004, Elizabeth Edwards revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was treated via chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and continued to work within the Democratic Party and her husband's One America Committee. On March 22, 2007, during his campaign for the 2008 Democratic nomination for the presidency, Edwards and his wife announced that her cancer had returned; 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 she requires treatment.

Extramarital affair

In October 2007, The National Enquirer began a series of reports alleging an adulterous affair between Edwards and former campaign worker Rielle Hunter. By July 2008, several news media outlets speculated that Edwards' chances for the vice presidency may have been harmed by the allegations, which now included that he fathered a child with Hunter and had visited her and the baby girl at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Californiamarker. However, the story was not widely covered by the press for some time, until, after initially denying the allegations,Edwards admitted the affair.

In an August 8, 2008 statement, and an interview with Bob Woodruff of ABC News, Edwards admitted the affair with Hunter in 2006 but denied being the father of her child. He acknowledged that he had been dishonest in denying the entire Enquirer story, admitting that some of it was true, but said that the affair ended long before the time of the child's conception. He further said he was willing to take a paternity test, but Hunter responded that she would not be party to a DNA test "now or in the future". Initially, campaign aide, Andrew Young, claimed that he, not Edwards, was the child's father. Young has since renounced that statement, and told publishers in a book proposal that Edwards knew all along that he was the child’s father; Edwards pleaded with him to accept responsibility falsely.

In the proposal, which The New York Times examined, Young claims to have set up private meetings between Edwards and Hunter. He wrote that Edwards once calmed an anxious Hunter by promising her that after his wife died, he would marry her in a rooftop ceremony in New York with an appearance by the Dave Matthews Band.

In May 2009, newspapers reported that Edwards' campaign was being investigated for conversion of campaign money to personal use related to the affair. Edwards said that the campaign was complying with the inquiry. The relevant US attorney refused to comment. In the same month, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News reported that he had been told by members of Edwards' staff that they had planned a "doomsday strategy" to derail Edwards' campaign if he got close to the nomination. Joe Trippi, a senior advisor to the campaign, said the report was "complete bullshit". In August 2009, Rielle Hunter appeared before the grand jury investigating this matter.

Legal career

After law school, Edwards clerked for a federal judge and in 1978 became an associate at the Nashvillemarker law firm of Dearborn & Ewing, doing primarily trial work, defending a Nashville bank and other corporate clients. The Edwards family returned to North Carolina in 1981, settling in the capital of Raleighmarker where he joined the firm of Tharrington, Smith & Hargrove.

In 1984 Edwards was assigned to a medical malpractice lawsuit that had been perceived to be unwinnable; 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 had suffered permanent brain and nerve damage after a doctor prescribed an overdose of the 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 represented a five-year-old child born with cerebral palsy whose doctor did not choose to perform an immediate Caesarean delivery when a fetal monitor showed she was in distress. Edwards won a $6.5 million verdict for his client, but five weeks later, the presiding judge sustained the verdict but overturned the award on grounds that it was "excessive" and that it appeared "to have been given under the influence of passion and prejudice," adding that in his opinion "the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict." He offered the plaintiffs $3.25 million, half of the jury's award, but the child's family appealed the case and received $4.25 million in a settlement. Winning this case established the North Carolina precedent of physician and hospital liability for failing to determine if the patient understood the risks of a particular procedure.

After this trial, Edwards gained national attention as a plaintiff's lawyer. He filed at least twenty 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 (now named Kirby & Holt) with a friend, David Kirby. He became known as the top plaintiffs' attorney in North Carolina. The biggest case of his legal career was a 1996 product liability lawsuit against Sta-Rite, the manufacturer of a defective pool drain cover. The case involved Valerie Lakey, a five-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 and referenced his son, Wade, who had been killed shortly before testimony began. 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, rather than risk losing an appeal. 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 award was unexpectedly high, while all of the other lawyers they spoke with said they required the full one-third fee. The size of the jury award 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.

After Edwards won a large verdict against a trucking company whose worker had been involved in a fatal accident, the North Carolina legislature passed a law prohibiting such awards unless the employee's actions had been specifically sanctioned by the company.

In December 2003, during his first presidential campaign, Edwards (with John Auchard) published Four Trials, a biographical book focusing on cases from his legal career. According to this book, 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.

Public career

Political positions

Edwards promotes programs to eliminate poverty in the United States, including arguing in favor of creating one million housing vouchers over five years in order to place poor people in middle-class neighborhoods. Edwards has stated, "If we truly believe that we are all equal, then we should live together too." He also supports "College for Everyone" initiatives.

Although Edwards initially supported the Iraq War, he later changed his position and in November 2005 wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in which he said he regretted voting for the Iraq War Resolution, and discussed three solutions for success in the conflict. He has denounced the "troop surge" in Iraq, is a proponent of withdrawal, and has urged Congress to withhold funding for the war without a withdrawal timetable.

On social policy, Edwards supports abortion rights and has a universal health care plan that requires all Americans to purchase health care insurance, "requires that everybody get preventive care," and requires employers to provide health care insurance or be taxed to fund public health care. He supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, is opposed to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and supports the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

He has endorsed efforts to slow down global warming and was the first presidential candidate to make his campaign carbon neutral.

Senate tenure

Edwards won election to the U.S. Senate in 1998 as a Democrat running 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, Jr. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Edwards was on Democratic nominee Al Gore's vice presidential nominee short list (along with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, Gore's eventual pick).

In his time in the Senate, Edwards co-sponsored 203 bills. Among them was Lieberman's 2002 Iraq War Resolution (S.J.Res.46), which he co-sponsored along with 15 other senators, but which did not go to a vote; he voted for replacement resolution (H.J Res. 114) in the full Senate to authorize the use of military force against Iraq, which passed by a vote of 77 to 23, saying on October 10, 2002 that "Almost no one disagrees with these basic facts: that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a menace; that he has weapons of mass destruction and that he is doing everything in his power to get nuclear weapons; that he has supported terrorists; that he is a grave threat to the region, to vital allies like Israelmarker, and to the United States; and that he is thwarting the will of the international community and undermining the United Nations' credibility." He defended his vote on an October 10, 2004 appearance on Meet the Press, saying "I would have voted for the resolution knowing what I know today, because it was the right thing to do to give the president the authority to confront Saddam Hussein...I think Saddam Hussein was a very serious threat. I stand by that, and that's why [John Kerry and I] stand behind our vote on the resolution". However, he subsequently changed his mind about the war and apologized for that military authorization vote. Edwards also voted in favor of the Patriot Act.

Among other positions, Edwards was generally pro-choice and supported affirmative action and the death penalty. One of 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 advocated rolling back the Bush administration's tax cuts and ending mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent offenders. Edwards generally supported expanding legal immigration to the United States while working with Mexicomarker to provide better border security and stop illegal trafficking.

Edwards served on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary, and was a member of the New Democrat Coalition.

Before the 2004 Senate election, 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.

Post-Senate activities

The day after his concession speech, he announced his wife Elizabeth had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Edwards told interviewer Larry King that he doubted he would return to practice as a trial lawyer and showed no interest in succeeding Terry McAuliffe as the Democratic National Committee chairman.

In February 2005, Edwards headlined the "100 Club" Dinner, a major fundraiser for the New Hampshiremarker Democratic Party. That same month, Edwards was appointed as director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillmarker for studying ways to move people out of poverty. That fall, Edwards toured ten major universities in order to promote "Opportunity Rocks!", a program aimed at getting youth involved to fight poverty.

On March 21, 2005, Edwards recorded his first podcast with his wife. Several months later, in August, Edwards delivered an address to a potential key supporter in the Iowa caucus, the AFL-CIO in Waterloo, Iowamarker.

In the following month, Edwards sent an email to his supporters and announced that he opposed the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts to become Chief Justice of the United States. He was also opposed to the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito as an Associate Justice and Judge Charles Pickering's appointment to the Federal bench.

During the summer and fall of 2005, he visited homeless shelters and job training centers and spoke at events organized by ACORN, the NAACP and the SEIU. He spoke 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 racial minorities (to integrate upper-income neighborhoods), and a program modeled on the Works Progress Administration to rehabilitate the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. In Greene County, North Carolinamarker he unveiled the pilot program for College for Everyone, an educational measure he promised during his presidential campaign, in which prospective college students would receive a scholarship for their first year in exchange for ten hours of work a week. The College for Everyone program was cancelled in July 2008.

Edwards was co-chair of a Council on Foreign Relations task force on United States-Russia relations alongside Republican Jack Kemp, a former congressman, Cabinet official and vice presidential nominee. The task force issued its report in March 2006. On July 12, the International Herald Tribune published a related op-ed by Edwards and Kemp.

On April 6, 2006, Edwards joined Ted Kennedy at a rally for raising the minimum wage.

In October 2005, Edwards joined the Wall Streetmarker investment firm Fortress Investment Group as a senior adviser, later working with them as a consultant. Unknown to Edwards, Fortress owned a major stake in Green Tree Servicing LLC, which rose to prominence in the 1990s selling subprime loans to mobile-home owners and now services subprime loans originated by others. Subprime loans allow buyers with poor credit histories to be funded, but they charge higher rates because of the risk, and sometimes carry hidden fees and increased charges over time. In August 2007, The Wall Street Journal reported that a portion of the Edwards family's assets were invested in Fortress Investment Group, which had, in turn, invested a portion of its assets in subprime mortgage lenders, some of which had foreclosed on the homes of Hurricane Katrina victims. Upon learning of Fortress' investments, Edwards divested funds and stated that he would try to help the affected families. Edwards later helped set up an ACORN-administered "Louisiana Home Rescue Fund" seeded with $100,000, much of it from his pocket, to provide loans and grants to the families who were foreclosed on by Fortress-owned lenders.

Political campaigns

Electoral history

North Carolina United States Senate election, 1998 (Democratic primary)
  • John Edwards - 277,468 (51.39%)
  • D.G. Martin - 149,049 (27.59%)
  • Ella Butler Scarborough - 55,486 (10.28%)

North Carolina United States Senate election, 1998

2004 Democratic presidential primaries

United States presidential election, 2004
  • George W. Bush/Dick Cheney (R) (inc.) - 62,040,610 (50.7%) and 286 electoral votes (31 states carried)
  • John Kerry/John Edwards (D) - 59,028,111 (48.3%) and 251 electoral votes (19 states and D.C. carried)

2008 Democratic presidential primaries

2004 presidential campaign

In 2000, Edwards unofficially began his presidential campaign when he began to seek speaking engagements in Iowamarker, the site of the nation's first party caucuses. On January 2, 2003, Edwards began fundraising without officially campaigning by forming an exploratory committee. On September 15, 2003, Edwards fulfilled a promise he made a year earlier as a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to unofficially announce his intention to seek the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination. The next morning, Edwards made the announcement officially from his hometown. He declined to run for reelection to the Senate in order to focus on his presidential run. Edwards' campaign was chaired by North Carolina Democratic activist Ed Turlington.

As Edwards had been building support 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.

Edwards' "stump speech" spoke of two Americas, with one composed of the wealthy and privileged, and the other of the hard-working common man, causing the media to often characterize Edwards as a populist.

Edwards struggled to gain substantial support, but his poll numbers began to rise steadily weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Edwards had a surprising second place finish with the support of 32% of delegates, behind only John Kerry's 39% and ahead of former front-runner Howard Dean at 18%. One week later in the New Hampshire primary, Edwards finished in fourth place behind Kerry, Dean and Wesley Clark, with 12%. During the February 3 primaries, Edwards won the South Carolina primary, lost to Clark in Oklahomamarker, and lost to Kerry in the other states. Edwards garnered the second largest number of second-place finishes, again falling behind Clark.

Edwards on the campaign trail in 2004
withdrew from the contest, leaving Edwards the only major challenger to Kerry. In the Wisconsinmarker primary on February 17, Edwards finished second to Kerry with 34% of the vote.

Edwards largely avoided attacking Kerry until a February 29, 2004 debate in New York, where he characterized him as a "Washington insider" and mocked Kerry's plan to form a committee to examine trade agreements.

In the Super Tuesday primaries on March 2, Kerry finished well ahead in nine of the ten states voting, and Edwards' campaign ended. In Georgiamarker, Edwards finished only slightly behind Kerry but, failing to win a single state, chose to withdraw from the race. He announced his official withdrawal at a Raleigh, North Carolinamarker press conference on March 3. Edwards' withdrawal made major media outlets relatively early on the evening of Super Tuesday, at about 6:30 p.m. CST, before polls had closed in Californiamarker and before caucuses in Minnesotamarker had even begun. It is thought that the withdrawal influenced many people in Minnesota to vote for other candidates, which may partially account for the strong Minnesota finish of Dennis Kucinich. Edwards did win the presidential straw poll conducted by the Independence Party of Minnesota.

After withdrawing from the race, he went on to win the April 17 Democratic caucuses in his home state of North Carolina, making him the only Democratic candidate besides Kerry to win nominating contests in two states.

2004 vice presidential nomination

Kerry/Edwards campaign logo
On July 6, 2004 Kerry announced that Edwards would be his running mate; the decision was widely hailed in public opinion polls and by Democratic leaders. Though many Democrats supported Edwards' nomination, others criticized the selection for Edwards' perceived lack of experience. In the vice presidential debate, Dick Cheney told Edwards they had never met because of Edwards' frequent absences from the Senate, but a videotape later surfaced of Cheney and Edwards shaking hands at an official event.

Kerry's campaign advisor Bob Shrum later reported in Time magazine that Kerry said he wished he'd never picked Edwards, and the two have since stopped speaking to each other. Edwards said in his concession speech, "You can be disappointed, but you cannot walk away. This fight has just begun."

2008 presidential campaign

On December 28, 2006, John Edwards officially announced his candidacy for President in the 2008 election from the yard of a home in New Orleansmarker, Louisianamarker that was being rebuilt after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Edwards stated that his main goals were eliminating poverty, fighting global warming, providing universal health care, and withdrawing troops from Iraq.

National polls had Edwards placing third among the Democratic field beginning in January 2007, behind Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. By July 2007, the Edwards campaign had raised a total of $23 million from nearly 100,000 donors, placing him behind Obama and Clinton in fundraising.

Edwards was first to boycott a Fox News sponsored presidential debate in March 2007. Subsequently, all major Democratic candidates followed suit; Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, and then Barack Obama.

Also in 2007, another defective pool drain-related accident similar to the one that disemboweled Valerie Lakey (see "Legal career" above) occurred in Minnesota. The victim was six-year old Abigail Taylor. Edwards pushed to have federal pool safety strengthened and played a part in the passage of the Virginia Baker Pool Safety Act.

On January 3, 2008, in the Iowa caucuses, the first contest of the nomination process, Edwards placed second with 29.75 percent of the vote to Obama (37.58 percent), with Clinton coming in third with 29.47 percent of the vote. On January 8, Edwards placed a distant third in the New Hampshire Democratic primary with just less than 17% (48,818 votes). On January 26, Edwards again placed third in the primary in South Carolina, his birth state, which he carried in 2004, and he placed third in the non-binding January 29 vote in Florida.

On January 30, 2008, Edwards announced that he was suspending his campaign for the Presidency. He did not initially endorse either Clinton or Obama, saying they both had pledged to carry forward his central campaign theme of ending poverty in America. In April 2008 he stated that he would not accept the 2008 Vice Presidential slot if asked. On May 14, 2008, Edwards officially endorsed Senator Obama at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

On June 15, 2008, Edwards stepped back from his initial outright denial of interest in the position of the Vice President, saying, ”I’d take anything he asks me to think about seriously, but obviously this is something that I’ve done and it’s not a job I’m seeking." On June 20, 2008, The Associated Press reported that according to a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the names of Edwards and Sam Nunn were on Obama's vice presidential shortlist. Ultimately, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware was tapped to become Obama's running mate.


  • Four Trials (with John Auchard) (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003) ISBN 0743244974
  • Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives (New York: Collins, 2006) ISBN 0060884541
  • Ending Poverty in America: How to Restore the American Dream, co-editor (New Press, 2007) ISBN 1595581766

See also


  1. Lois Romano and Howard Kurtz, "Edwards's Ex-Lover Rejects Idea Of DNA Test: Hunter Requests Privacy For Herself, Her Child", Washington Post, August 10, 2008
  5. Friends of the Earth Sep. 16, 2007 retrieved May 1, 2008
  6. Grist Jan. 30, 2008 Retrieved May 1, 2008
  7. Immigration Voting Report Card for Sen. John Edwards
  9. John Edwards and Jack Kemp Co-Chair Council Task Force on Russian-American Relations - Council on Foreign Relations
  10. Russia's Wrong Direction - Council on Foreign Relations
  11. We need to be tough with Russia - International Herald Tribune
  13. John Edwards Hits the Street
  14. Free Preview -
  15. John Edwards says he will divest funds linked to lenders foreclosing in New Orleans - International Herald Tribune
  16. Our Campaigns - NC US Senate - D Primary Race - May 18, 1998
  17. Our Campaigns - NC US Senate Race - Nov 03, 1998
  18. Our Campaigns - US President - D Primaries Race - Jan 13, 2004
  19. Hill News, May 7, 2003
  20. Edwards#Two Americas
  21. 2004 South Carolina primary results
  22. CNN
  23. 2004 North Carolina caucuses results
  24. Kerry's Regrets About John Edwards - TIME
  25. John Edwards joins race for White House - Times Online
  26. Fox News Boss Hits Edwards' Boycott CBS News, March 9, 2007
  27. Iowa Democratic Party Caucus Results
  28. Edwards endorses Obama, praises Clinton -
  29. "John Edwards pushes focus on poverty in book"

External links


Speeches and statements

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