Local Politics

Did Edwards' quick rise lead to ugly fall?

Posted June 27, 2011

— Some who helped John Edwards launch his political career in the late 1990s wonder if his meteoric rise in Washington, D.C., might have been a factor in his extramarital affair and the criminal charges he now faces.

Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina and two-time Democratic candidate for president, was indicted June 3 on charges that he received illegal campaign contributions and used the money to hide his affair and child with campaign staffer Rielle Hunter.

He has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that the money he received from a Virginia heiress and a Texas banker were gifts that didn't need to be reported as campaign contributions.

A trial on the charges is unlikely before next year, as Edwards' attorneys haven't yet started to comb through the more than 300,000 pages of evidence federal authorities have compiled in the case.

Edwards was a successful trial lawyer when he decided to get into politics more than a decade ago. He won his first election, defeating Republican U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth in 1998.

"He made a big splash in the beginning, and there was almost immediate speculation about the future," said Gary Pearce, a Democratic consultant who helped with Edwards' Senate campaign.

"I think, in retrospect, that was the worst thing that ever happened to him," Pearce said. "John never had an apprenticeship in politics. ... He went straight to 'the show.'"

Edwards chose to forgo running for re-election in 2004 and instead sought the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Anyone who gets elected to the Senate starts thinking about running for president," Pearce said.

His candidacy attracted attention for its energy, and he had strong showings in early primaries. A series of poor finishes later on led him to drop out of the race, but eventual nominee John Kerry picked him as his vice presidential running mate.

John Edwards at 2004 Democratic National Convention Did Edwards' quick rise lead to ugly fall?

"Most people running for office don't start at that level," said Barbara Allen, a former chairwoman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. "There was something underneath that you could feel – maybe he was getting too much attention."

Neither Pearce nor Allen has talked to Edwards since shortly after he and Kerry lost the 2004 election to former President George W. Bush. They said they don't know what led him to cover up his affair with Hunter during his 2008 presidential campaign, but they noted that politics often overtakes people.

"Politics is the worst addiction in the world," Pearce said.

"There's pressure coming from everywhere. From every side, you're pressured," Allen said. "Maybe that's what happened with John. Maybe he ceased to listen to the average person."

Even with politics now out of the equation, both Pearce and Allen said they feel he can have a future that reminds them more of his past.

"I thought he had such great, great potential," Allen said. "I hope the lessons have been learned. I hope they can move forward and stick together as a family."

43 Comments

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  • Dixiecrat Jun 29, 1:42 p.m.

    The "Republican Entertainers" are just talking heads, expousing their opinions. You can turn them off if you don't like what they say. This guy was in a position (and wanted a higher position) to directly affect the lives of Americans through policy and law. Big difference. Not very intuit...

  • intuit Jun 29, 10:19 a.m.

    "Typical narcissitic, entitlement minded liberal democrat. One down, Lord only knows how many more to go."- driverkid3

    This is quite a bold statement when you consider the minds of what I call the Republican entertainers out there- Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck....these guys aren't narcissistic or self-entitled in any way....It's politics buddy- you see it on both sides.

  • driverkid3 Jun 28, 5:46 p.m.

    Typical narcissitic, entitlement minded liberal democrat. One down, Lord only knows how many more to go.

  • texastransplant Jun 28, 4:41 p.m.

    really? seems to me it was more in line with his lack of character that brought about this "ugly fall"...lying to God, his ill wife, children and, lastly, his constituents show how ugly HE truly is....
    men (and women) have cheated, lied and broken up families, that's a fact, but to so PUBLICLY deny an innocent baby....

  • BubbaDukeforPresident Jun 28, 4:10 p.m.

    No, Edwards' character was already flawed before he ran for office. The self-anointed believe they are above the law and the rules don't apply to them. He's a lawyer, one responsible for much of the high malpractice insurance rates doctors have to pay.

  • truth9806 Jun 28, 2:15 p.m.

    Give me a break! Now he was not to blame for his actions because he so popular in Washington?
    His lack of character was his problem.
    Good try WRAL.....

  • ririculus Jun 28, 1:27 p.m.

    The state democratic party was ticked at him from the beginning for not paying his figurative and literal dues with the party. He jumped ahead of everyone in line for higher office when he ran, but he had charisma and money so everyone jumped on the bandwagon, ultimately, though not without some lingering resentment... It is interesting that the only people the reporter could get to comment on this story are those who have not seen or spoken to Edwards in years. Pearce has always been disaffected since his departure from the Edwards camp (for whatever reasons) and Allen was one who had to be won over from the get-fo. Couldn't find more current sources for the article and the tv piece to make this a bit more relevant and interesting. No one talking?

  • jdupree Jun 28, 12:11 p.m.

    No, his lack of character led to his fall. People either have character or they don't. He cheated, he lied, he denied his own child. All character flaws.

  • LL4U Jun 28, 11:41 a.m.

    Interesting, . . .too many negative comments about WRAL's Johnny Boy and they move the story to "below the fold".

  • nighttrain2010 Jun 28, 11:33 a.m.

    >>Did Edwards' quick rise lead to ugly fall?

    Yes we all did it to HIM. Poor, poor John Edwards would just be the country lawyer helping out the needy if WE hadn't done it to HIM.

    John Edwards was (and still is) an ambulance chaser who got too big for his own britches. He started believing the nonsense his supporters (and some in the local and state media) wanted to believe. He did it to himself. I didn't have anything to do with it. No one had anything to do with it except John Edwards. He didn't do anything in Congress for good and he isn't doing anything now. Now let him go to jail where he belongs

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