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Sen. John Edwards Takes Office, Prepares for Trial

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WASHINGTON — North Carolina's junior senator made history Wednesday. At 12:17 p.m. John Edwards took the oath of office and became the first Democrat from the Tar Heel state to reach the Senate in six years.

The family man from Robbins joined an elite club as Vice President Al Gore swore Edwards into office by saying, "Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the constitution of the United States...I do."

Watch the swearing in ceremony withQuickTime,RealVideo(for 28.8 modems), orRealVideo(for ISDN and faster).

"It is a feeling of excitement combined with a feeling of awesome responsibility," Edwards said. "It's both those things together, but it's a great feeling."

Dozens of supporters made the trip to Washington, including his family, to congratulate their hometown hero, but in the end it was Edwards who gave thanks.

"All my family, all my friends, all my wonderful supporters who worked so hard in this campaign, you all know what was involved in getting to this moment. We all know what was involved, don't we? And I am so proud and so honored to be able to share this day and this moment with the people who mean the most to me, and those people are in this room right now. I love you, thank you for being here, and it's wonderful to be here with you."

But the celebration could only last so long because the job of being a senator had begun, and the business of impeachment may begin.

Thursday, the now retired trial lawyer will be sworn in as a juror, this time perhaps to judge the worthiness of a president. Supporters say they trust their man to do right.

"He's going to have to act on his own conscience on that," says Robbins resident Phyllis Lambert. "He's going to have to make his own decision."

Edwards supporters are largely pro-Clinton. They are disturbed by talk of an impeachment trial, and they have impeachment advice for their new senator.

"I would tell him to vote no, squash it and let it go," says J.D. Pone, a Hope Mills resident. "Let's get on with the business of leading this country."

"I think what he needs to do is to sit as any juror would at any level of the judiciary, listen to the facts, hear the evidence and render a judgement based on the evidence," says Raleigh resident Jeff Fluck.

Edwards has said that he will weigh all impeachment evidence, and listen carefully to all sides if there is a trial. Wednesday, Edwards said that the issue has not come up with most people he has personally talked to.

"Other senators are talking about [the impeachment] because it is something we are going to have to deal with pretty soon," Edwards said. "In terms of people in general, not very much. We get a fair number of phone calls about it, but just when I meet and talk to regular people...not very much."

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Jim Payne, Reporter
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