Local reaction is mixed on Edwards

July 07, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

TRI-STATE - Politics diverged Tuesday when Tri-State area residents heard that Democrat John Kerry chose John Edwards as his vice presidential running mate.

Some said Edwards is a strong, logical choice. Others said the pick didn't matter because they favor President Bush.

Two lamented the lack of Clintons in the race.

Allen Garlock, 37, of Hagerstown, said his first choice for president is Bill Clinton, who has served two terms and therefore is ineligible to run again.

"I guess I (will) have to make that decision when I hear the debates," he said.

Roy Lee Jenkins, 47, of Hagerstown, said he could have been swayed to vote for a Democrat if the candidate were Hillary Clinton. She has "a strong head on her shoulders," he said.


Instead, Jenkins, a Democrat, said he'll vote Republican. "George Bush has a lot standing for him," including his leadership after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and in the war in Iraq, he said.

Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, used decisive early wins to outlast the Democratic field in the presidential primaries.

He announced on Tuesday that Edwards, a North Carolina senator - the last opponent to drop out of the primary race - would be his running mate.

Clinton sentiments aside, other respondents questioned Tuesday stuck to the choices at hand.

Mostly along party lines

Among elected officials, Democrats tended to support Edwards as the choice, while Republicans were less certain.

Lewis C. Metzner, a Hagerstown City Council member, called Kerry's pick a "very cautious, mainstream, southern Democrat - somebody who's not going to hurt him."

"It's George Bush's election to win or lose," said Metzner, a Democrat. Therefore, Kerry's goal was "not doing something stupid," he said.

"Edwards impressed me in the primary race," said Franklin County (Pa.) Commissioner Cheryl Plummer, a Democrat. "He brings a broader base of support than Kerry had before and more energy."

Republicans, however, found less reason to get worked up.

"Having a trial lawyer (as a running mate) is taking us in the wrong direction because of the issue of skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance premiums," West Virginia Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, said.

Overington said he thought Kerry would try for more balance since Edwards is liberal on social issues.

"I think the Democrats were looking for somebody relatively safe and John Edwards is a rather noncontroversial figure," Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Franklin, said.

But the incumbent has a better rsum, he said.

"Dick Cheney may not be Mr. Excitement, but he brings a far greater range of experience to the vice presidency," Fleagle said.

Given the choices Kerry had, Edwards might have made the most sense, Maryland Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington, said.

"It shows that he needs to do something in the South and that's his best shot," he said.

Another leading contender, former U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, "had too much baggage," Myers said.

Picking Sen. Bob Graham of Florida might have put that state - which famously decided the 2000 election - back in play, he said.

Energy, credibility

Echoing politicians of both parties, Berkeley County Commissioner Howard Strauss, a Republican, said Kerry's move was expected since Edwards was the runner-up for the Democratic nomination.

Strauss said Edwards will help energize the Democratic ticket in what he thinks will be a close presidential election.

Shepherdstown, W.Va., resident Thomas Chadbourne said Edwards "brings credibility in the South, where Kerry, as a Massachusetts liberal, has very little."

Chadbourne said Edwards is a great campaigner who will liven up the race.

Interviewed in downtown Hagerstown Tuesday, Georgie Blair, 55, said she respects Edwards.

"Kerry's gonna need someone pretty strong to win. ... Edwards has a lot of character with him, and he's a very likable man," said Blair, who lives in Hagerstown.

Still, she said she's a Republican and will vote for Bush.

Mike Burik, 53, of Hagerstown, was not interested in Kerry's announcement. "Who cares. I'm not going to vote for him anyway," he said.

To Vickie Humphries, a vice presidential candidate will mean little when she votes.

Humphries, 46, of Boonsboro, said she is a registered Democrat who doesn't rule out Republican candidates.

But she said she hasn't had time to think about politics. An unemployed single mother, she said she was in the middle of a job search Tuesday.

She hasn't made up her mind.

"It's gonna be what they stand for and what programs they support," Humphries said.

Staff writers Gregory T. Simmons, Don Aines and Richard F. Belisle contributed to this story.

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