WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry selected former rival John Edwards to be his running mate, telling supporters today he couldn’t wait to see the freshman North Carolina senator going “toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney.”

“In the next 120 days and in the administration that follows, John Edwards and I will be fighting for the America we love,” Kerry said in an e-mail to supporters obtained by The Associated Press. “We’ll be fighting to give the middle class a voice by providing good paying jobs and affordable health care. We’ll be fighting to make America energy independent. We’ll be fighting to build a strong military and lead strong alliances, so young Americans are never put in harm’s way because we insisted on going it alone.”

By selecting Edwards, Kerry went with the smooth-talking Southern populist over more seasoned politicians in hopes of injecting vigor and small-town appeal to the Democratic presidential ticket.

He offered Edwards the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket in a telephone call this morning, and the North Carolina senator accepted, said two senior Democrats familiar with the conversation.

Edwards was at his home in Georgetown when Kerry called, readying his two young children for summer camp. Kerry called from his Pittsburgh home.

He planned personally announce his pick at a rally in Pittsburgh. Edwards won’t be at the rally. Obsessed with secrecy, Kerry kept his decision to himself until the last possible minute, giving Edwards no time to get to Pittsburgh in time.

The newly minted ticket will meet up later today and begin a multi-state tour, ending in Edwards’s home state.

They will be nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, which begins July 26.

Kerry’s decision ended a search that began with about 25 candidates and a mandate to find a political soul mate who could “be ready at any moment” to assume the presidency. Kerry advisers said their boss had also signaled his interest in Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.

Edwards was the last major candidate standing against Kerry in the Democratic presidential race. He emerged as a favorite second choice of Democratic voters, thanks to his youthful good looks, a self-assured manner and an upbeat, optimistic style. He saved his harshest criticism for President Bush, who he accused of creating “two Americas” – one for the privileged, another for everyone else.

Some Democrats were concerned that Edwards, whose only political credential was a single term in the Senate, lacked the experience in international affairs, particularly in wartime, to be a credible candidate to assume the presidency in the case of death, resignation or removal.

Kerry privately complained to associates during the campaign that Edwards hadn’t served long enough in the Senate to deserve a shot at the presidency. Aides said he was won over by his private meetings with Edwards, his performance as a campaign surrogate since the primary fight ended and pressure from Democratic leaders who pushed Edwards as a vice presidential pick.

Edwards seldom criticized Kerry or any of the other Democrats while running a generally positive campaign. The two had few major policy disagreements – both supported the decision to go to war in Iraq and both voted against the $87 billion package for Iraq and Afghanistan.

One division was over the North American Free Trade Agreement: Kerry voted for it, but Edwards campaigned against NAFTA, which the Senate approved before he was elected. Edwards made trade, jobs and the economy the centerpiece of his campaign, questioning Kerry’s vote on NAFTA but not pledging to seek its repeal.

They also differed in some ways on how to approach some issues. Both called for rolling back the Bush tax cuts, but Kerry proposed eliminating the tax cuts for those who make more than $200,000 a year while Edwards set the ceiling at $240,000. Kerry voted against the ban on so-called “partial birth” abortion passed by Congress, but Edwards did not vote. A more clear-cut difference was Kerry’s opposition to the death penalty and Edwards’ support of it.

Kerry finished first and Edwards second in the Iowa caucuses in January, surprising front-runner Howard Dean and driving regional favorite Dick Gephardt out of the race. Dean finished second to Kerry in the New Hampshire primary, and as Dean lost the next dozen delegate contests, the race became a contest between Kerry and Edwards.

Edwards could never muster enough momentum to overtake his Senate colleague. He won only a single state during the competitive phase of the primary, his native South Carolina, and ended his bid following the 10-state Super Tuesday elections on March 2. North Carolina gave Edwards a victory in its first presidential caucus on April 17, but the vote meant more as a boost to his standing at the Democratic National Convention and to his potential as a running mate.

Edwards, 51, was born in Seneca, S.C., and grew up in Robbins, N.C. His father was a mill worker, and he announced his presidential campaign from the factory, then closed, where his father had worked and where he had swept floors to earn money for college. He earned a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University in 1974 and a law degree from the University of North Carolina in 1977.

A Methodist, Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, have three children: Cate, Emma Claire and Jack. Their son Wade died in a traffic accident at age 16 in 1996.

Edwards worked in private practice in Nashville and Raleigh, N.C., for nearly two decades, earning a fortune from medical malpractice and product liability judgments. Although Edwards portrayed himself as a champion of ordinary people hurt by large corporations, the American Tort Reform Association described him as “a wealthy personal injury lawyer masquerading as a man of the regular people.”

Pouring millions of his own dollars into North Carolina’s 1998 Senate campaign, he challenged Republican Sen. Lauch Faircloth. The incumbent failed to persuade people that Edwards was no more than a lawsuit-happy lawyer, losing his seat to the upstart politician by 4 percentage points.

In the Senate as well as on the campaign trail, Edwards tended to take a moderate stand on issues. Outside of North Carolina, he gained more public attention from media-coined nicknames like “Golden Boy” and as People magazine’s “sexiest politician.”

On behalf of Senate Democrats, he was part of the team that deposed former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and others linked to the impeachment case of former President Bill Clinton. Although Edwards had served just two years in the Senate, Al Gore considered him as a running mate in 2000 before choosing Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Edwards supports abortion rights and opposes private-school vouchers and partial privatization of Social Security. He backs domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples yet opposes gay marriage. He does not favor drilling for oil in the Arctic refuge.

In education policy, Edwards proposed offering one year of free tuition at public universities and community colleges for students who agree to 10 hours of community service a week and wants to double federal spending on public-school teacher training.

Edwards’ health care proposals focused on providing better care and coverage for children. He has proposed tax breaks to make children’s health coverage affordable to families that agree to buy it. Under his plan, a family of four earning less than $60,000 would pay less than $370 a year for their kids’ insurance; a lower income family of four would pay about $110.

He also advocates subsidies to help two-thirds of uninsured adults buy health coverage. People aged 55 to 65 could buy into Medicare, under his proposal, and unemployed workers who are not wealthy could continue coverage from their last jobs with 70 percent federal subsidies.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.