Local Politics

Edwards' ex-mistress not to participate in DNA testing

The ex-mistress of former presidential candidate John Edwards says she will not participate in DNA testing to establish the paternity of her daughter.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The ex-mistress of former presidential candidate John Edwards said Saturday she will not participate in DNA testing to establish the paternity of her daughter.

Rielle Hunter's lawyer, Robert Gordon, says his client is a private individual who wishes to maintain the privacy of herself and her daughter.

In a statement, Gordon says that Hunter is ruling out any kind of testing that could establish who the daughter's father is.

"Rielle will not participate in DNA testing or any other invasion of her or her daughter's privacy now or in the future," he said.

Allegations surfaced late last year that Edwards, a former U.S. senator, had an affair with Hunter, a videographer for his campaign, that she became pregnant and had a child and that a campaign worker stepped in to claim paternity.

Edwards repeatedly denied the allegations, but he acknowledged Friday the affair took place in 2006. Although he hasn't taken a paternity test, he said he couldn't be the father of Hunter's child because the affair ended before the child, who was born in February, was conceived. He said he is willing to take a paternity test to prove it.
"In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs," Edwards said in a statement. "It is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry, as it is inadequate to say to the people who love me that I am sorry.

The decision by Hunter means that the issue of who the father will remain an open question.

Hunter's daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter, was born on Feb. 27 this year, and no father's name is given on the birth certificate filed in California.

A former Edwards campaign staff member professes to be the father.

Edwards’ admission has many wondering what political future lies ahead for the Chapel Hill lawyer.

“He’s got to have a solid family situation before he can even hope to come back into politics,” Peace College Political Science Professor David McLennan said Saturday.

McLennan said it will be difficult for Edwards to return to political life quickly, especially before the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

“I think right now he’s pretty radioactive. If he goes to the convention then the story is about Edwards, McLennan said.

Barlow Herget, a political commentator and former Raleigh city councilman, thinks it is time for Edwards to get out of the political limelight.

“I think it (the affair) shows a lack of judgment that you wouldn’t want from someone who is even running for dog catcher,” Herget said.

Herget supported Edwards in his recent run for presidency but said Saturday he can no longer continue to back the former North Carolina senator.

"The first time he kissed her, he should have been thinking, 'Goodbye to my political career,'" said Jon Krosnick, a professor of political science and psychology at Stanford University. But candidates such as Edwards "feel invulnerable, that they feel it has gone on all of the time, that I'm not going to be scrutinized at this level ... and it will stay private."

Many of those closest to Edwards did not hide their disappointment and anger after the 55-year-old husband and father admitted to both having an affair with Hunter and lying about it for months. Former campaign manager David Bonior said he was one of the thousands of friends and supporters that Edwards betrayed, and he shuddered when thinking about what might have happened had Edwards beaten Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in the party's primaries.

"You can't lie in politics and expect to have people's confidence," he said.

When leaving the race in January, Edwards extracted a pledge from his rivals to make ending poverty as central to their campaign as it was to his own. It was seen then as a sign that Edwards didn't plan to leave public life behind, and indeed, a few months later his timely endorsement helped voters forget Obama's ugly 41-point loss to Clinton in the West Virginia primary.

Edwards was expected to speak in prime-time later this month at the Democratic National Convention, ready to emerge as a candidate for a cabinet post in a possible Obama administration. That's all gone now, said Dennis Wicker, a Democrat who was North Carolina's lieutenant governor from 1993 to 2001.

"His credibility is shot. His political career is over," Wicker said. "I don't know what causes one to cross a bright line like this one, but it's probably going to haunt him for the rest of his life ... it's colossal."

Edwards has always had a compelling personal story: the son of a mill worker in rural North Carolina who became a millionaire and later spurred to public service in part by the accidental death of his 16-year-old son. But for all his popularity, especially within the Democratic Party's progressive movement, Edwards doesn't have a strong base in North Carolina on which to build a recovery.

He only beat GOP Sen. Lauch Faircloth by three percentage points in 1998, and then didn't serve long enough in the Senate to build a legacy of constituent service that powered his controversial contemporary - Sen. Jesse Helms - to five terms in office. Even though he was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004, North Carolina voted for President Bush.

And he is hardly a traditional populist, bedeviled during his campaign by tales of $400 haircuts and reminders of his 102-acre estate – complete with basketball gym and 28,000-square-foot mansion – outside of Chapel Hill.

Any return to public life would also bring charges of hypocrisy: In 2007, a year after Edwards says he ended the affair with Hunter, he told CBS News that it's a "fair evaluation for America to engage in, to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make."

Finally, the affair is sure to be seen as a particularly painful blow to his wife, Elizabeth, who continued to campaign during his second run for the White House after she was diagnosed with an incurable recurrence of cancer. Few would argue that his wife is as beloved, if not more, than Edwards himself.

"I liked him before, but I don't see any integrity," said Gina Mohammid Nasir, 43, a yoga teacher from Wilmington. "The image of him and his wife was very important ... the image of that union."

If there is any hope for an Edwards redemption, it will come from those touched by yet another of his risks: to base a pair of national political campaigns on a fight against poverty and the struggles of low-income Americans.

In Greene County, Edwards founded a program in 2005 that sent 190 high school graduates to college for free. Those who benefited said Friday that his personal infidelities, no matter how distasteful, could not undo such good works.

"I have great things to say about John Edwards. He opened that window up for our rural community," said Sara Johnson, whose son Tyler earned one of the scholarships. "It gave something to our community, and our students and their families.”


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