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Still, first job is ‘mom’

Elizabeth Edwards energizes early electorate

By Leigh E. Rich

John Kerry will be a president of the people, Elizabeth Edwards intimated Monday as she visited the Centennial state the day before early voting began.

A Kerry-Edwards White House, the wife of Democratic veep candidate John Edwards promised, will “continue to be out here, not just when it’s time to campaign. … It’s really important that (we) keep in touch with the people.”

And she seems to have done just that during her daylong trip to Colorado, which included shaking hands with supporters at two local Safeways that are early voting sites and at Lucia’s Casa de Café and Rosa Linda’s Mexican Café, before heading to a town-hall stopover at Mesa State College in Grand Junction.

Edwards explained her visit as an attempt to “energize” electors “to make certain their votes count.”

And voting “couldn’t be easier to do,” she said during an impromptu press conference at Rosa Linda’s, particularly with Colorado’s early and absentee voting that began Tuesday—two weeks before the nation’s official Election Day. But Edwards said her visit also was to caution voters that early ballots are “easy to put off” and to encourage people to participate.

It is clear she hopes her plea reaches out to those newly registered, whom she says are “not people who want things to stay the same. They want things to change.”

Even 82-year-old Sarah Perez, who beamed after shaking Edwards’ hand and garnering an autograph, says she will stand by the Democratic ticket because she believes it is more in tune with the plight of the poor and the needy.

And “(they will) get (America) out of that war.”

Though this isn’t the first election in which longtime Democrat Perez has voted—she cited Kennedy and Clinton as she struggled to recall other Democratic presidents for whom she’s pulled the lever—this is the first time she’s publicly rallied for her team. “I can’t get around that much (anymore). … This is the first time in my life. I’m so happy.”

Joining the throng that spilled out of Lucia’s café and onto the sidewalk, Perez explained that she was there to support the Democrats, particularly U.S. Senate hopeful Ken Salazar.

“I believe in them,” she said of Salazar and the Kerry team, as Edwards worked her way through the sidewalk crowd and disappeared into Lucia’s. “If we don’t unite, it seems like nobody cares.”

And a more united America is something Kerry can offer, Edwards emphasized.

“A President Kerry would do some of the things the president has done—and that is to play offense. … (But) Senator Kerry will do even more. … We just can’t play offense. We have to play defense as well.”

For example, Edwards explained, the nation’s chemical plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Here in Colorado, there is one plant that, if attacked, could threaten the lives of more than a million people. And according to Greenpeace, there are currently 111 more such plants throughout the nation.

Edwards criticized the current administration for failing to stand behind a comprehensive chemical security plan, such as Democratic New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine’s Chemical Security Act of 2003, which died on the Senate floor after the chemical industry lobbied against it.

“We have to play better defense,” Edwards reiterated, stating that a winning game plan requires both—something Coloradans, she says, know all too well: “You all are from a football town.”

Also emphasizing that “it’s very easy in this campaign … to get distracted by a slogan or an easy analysis of what’s going on,” she pledged that a Kerry-Edwards administration would make the country “much safer, not just a little safer.”

As for what her husband would bring to the White House, Edwards replied, “John has spent his life fighting for children, families and workers.”

And she plans to have a hand in that, too—in particular as an advocate for after-school programs and military families. Edwards cited her and her husband’s experience creating two after-school programs before either was involved in politics.

“I know what a difference this can make in the lives of young people,” she said.

And as the daughter of a Navy pilot, she says that military families and veterans are both being “shortchanged in so many ways. … This president, (for example), is not making a commitment to build military housing.”

Her top priority, however, Edwards admitted before talking with a group of young children who patiently waited their turn, is her two young children, 6-year-old Emma Claire and 4-year-old Jack.

“So my first job’s mom.”

Rich, L. E. (2004, October 22). Elizabeth Edwards energizes early electorate. The Colorado Statesman, pp. 1, 17.

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