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As Edwards Goes For White House, State Democrats Scramble To Find Senate Candidate

Posted September 9, 2003

— North Carolina Senator John Edwards is moving full steam toward the White House.

A day after announcing he will not return to the Senate if his presidential bid fails, Edwards was in Washington to address a union group. He talked about education, health care, worker's rights and his American dream.

"I believe in America," he said. "The son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president for the White House."

Monday night, Edwards was to be in New Hampshire, where he will call for a partial repeal of the Patriot Act. He claims parts of the antiterror law infringe on people's rights.

Edwards will make his official presidential announcement later this month in his hometown of Robbins, in Moore County.

Back in North Carolina, there is plenty of fallout from Edwards' decision not to seek re-election. Democrats are scrambling to find a new candidate. Meanwhile, Republicans hope to gain a key Senate seat.

For his part, Edwards is completely focused on running for president. In a letter to the state's Democratic Party chairperson, he made it clear his Senate seat was up for grabs.

"And I think this announcement will activate our troops across the state, too," Democratic Party Chair Barbara Allen said.

The troops are expected to include former state House speaker Dan Blue and former Clinton staff member Erskine Bowles.

"Well, it means we'll have to gear up our efforts to determine if we will make a run for it," Blue said.

The potential Democratic candidates are expected to announce by next month.

Bowles' name is familiar on the Senate ballot. He lost to Elizabeth Dole in 2002.

There were quiet rumblings urging Sen. Edwards to make a decision so that potential Democrats could prepare and not give Republican Congressman Richard Burr too much of a head start.

"On my side of the coin, it's always hopeful when you're not running against an incumbent," Burr said. "It's an opportunity for me, but it's an opportunity that can only take advantage of if I stay focused this year on the things I need to do."

The Senate seat presently occupied by Edwards has been flip-flopping between the two parties since the mid-'70s. With Edwards out of thepicture, it is not only a swing seat, but North Carolina becomes a critical swing state.

"Well, everybody is going to be watching North Carolina," said North Carolina State University political science professor Andy Taylor.

Taylor said parties are ready to invest. With significant White House backing, Burr has raised more than $3 million.

"Washington parties are going to put a lot of resources down here," Taylor said. "It's going to be a big scrap."

It appears to be much like the fight Edwards faces as he focuses on the White House.


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