Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Tuesday selected former rival John Edwards to be his running mate, calling the wealthy former trial lawyer and rookie senator a man who showed "guts and determination and political skills" in his unsuccessful race against Kerry for the party's nomination.
As Kerry made the announcement at a rally in Pittsburgh, a huge crowd of supporters burst into applause, waving handmade signs that mixed with professionally printed "Kerry-Edwards" signs kept under wraps until the last minute. "I trust that met with your approval," Kerry said with a smile. A banner unfurled behind him; it read, "Kerry-Edwards. A Stronger America." As he wrapped up his remarks--a vintage Kerry stump speech laced with a few descriptions of Edwards--Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" played, a reference to the first name they share.
Similar to Kerry, who has expressed support for civil unions for same-sex couples, Edwards has said he would support domestic-partner benefits for gays and lesbians while opposing full marriage rights for them. Edwards has also publicly opposed a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
By selecting Edwards, Kerry went with the smooth-talking Southern populist over more seasoned politicians in hopes of injecting vigor and small-town appeal into the Democratic presidential ticket. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, calculated that he didn't need to add foreign policy heft to the ticket.
President Bush's reelection campaign wasted no time in criticizing the choice. His political team planned to air a television ad featuring former Republican rival John McCain titled "First Choice," an effort to paint Democrat John Kerry's running mate as his second choice. McCain, the Arizona senator, rejected Kerry's overtures to be number 2 on the Democratic ticket. The Republican National Committee called Edwards a "disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal" and "friend to personal injury trial lawyers."
Kerry and Edwards will be nominated at the Democratic National Convention, which begins July 26 in Boston. Kerry hopes to dominate the political landscape in the run-up to the convention, fleshing out his candidacy for voters who know little about him and hopefully opening a lead over Bush. Polls show the race is tight.
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."