Thursday, July 10, 2008

Edwards Brings Anti-Poverty Campaign To Hartford

Courant.com

Edwards Brings Anti-Poverty Campaign To Hartford

By MARK PAZNIOKAS

Courant Staff Writer

2:45 PM EDT, July 10, 2008

There is no bus, no banners, no trailing press contingent. But John Edwards still is campaigning, five months after ending his run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Edwards brought his new anti-poverty campaign today to a Hartford public housing project whose residents say they have struggled for resources and attention at the Capitol.

"I'm blessed to have been given this national voice because of my own presidential and vice presidential campaigns," Edwards said. "But what I want to do is be a megaphone for those who are not being heard."

Edwards said he intends to represent people families desperate to be heard.

"I'm going to make their stories heard all across this country and fight for what I think is fairness and justice in America," Edwards said.

He offered no megaphone for those stories, not today.

The press and public were excluded for space reasons from a round-table discussion at the Boys & Girls Club of northwest Hartford about poverty in city that Edwards conducted with Mayor Eddie A. Perez, legislators and some local residents and activists.

"What was so terrific about our meeting here today was we had a group of people, including political leaders and local leaders, who are completely committed to this cause," Edwards said.

His organization is "Half in Ten," named for its goal of cutting poverty by half in 10 years. The club was chosen because it sits on the edge of the Bowles Park housing project and was the setting for a visit by President Bush in April.

Edwards spoke to reporters outside the club after the round-table discussion, flanked by Perez, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, House Majority Leader Christopher Donovan, D- Meriden, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, and others.

Asked about Gov. M. Jodi Rell's rationale for vetoing a minimum wage increase – that it would hurt business and eliminate jobs for the poor – Edwards replied, "She's wrong."

Edwards said studies show that the local economy improves when the minimum wage is raised above the national minimum. The Connecticut minimum wage already was well above the national minimum.

"It's common sense," Edwards said. "Number one, people are able to support themselves. Number two, they make more money, so they infuse the local economy with more money. And because of those things, the local economy grows and jobs are created."

Edwards, who has endorsed Barack Obama, downplayed a flap over the Rev. Jesse Jackson unknowingly being recorded by a television microphone criticizing Obama with vulgar language for what Jackson described as talking down to black people.

"I believe that Sen. Obama represents in so many ways the hopes and aspirations for many Americans," Edwards said. "It's not just African Americas, but including African Americans."

He noted that Jackson has apologized.

Edwards repeated his standard line about the possibility of becoming Obama's running mate, the same nomination he accepted four years ago from John Kerry.

"I'm not seeking the job," Edwards replied. "If anything that Sen. Obama asks me to do ... allows me to serve my country, I would seriously think about it."

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