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Edwards plans campaign meeting at Confederate site

From John Mercurio
CNN Washington


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  49; June 10, 1953
EDUCATION:  Bachelor's degree, North Carolina State University; law degree, University of North Carolina
EXPERIENCE:  Trial lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee, and in Raleigh, North Carolina, for more than 20 years; elected to Senate in 1998
FAMILY:  Wife, Elizabeth Anania Edwards; three children; lost teenage son Wade in 1996 in a traffic accident. Edwards wears an Outward Bound pin on his suit jacket in honor of his son.
QUOTE: "People are hungry for new ideas to solve problems they have in their lives."

Source: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, plans to meet with supporters of his presidential bid at a Confederate site in South Carolina Saturday -- a move his office insists does not conflict with his aggressive pitch for African-American support nor his agreement to follow the NAACP's economic boycott of the state.

The meeting, sponsored by the South Carolina Democratic Leadership Council, is scheduled to take place in Charleston at the William Aiken House, named for a man who was once the South's largest slaveholder.

Aiken, a prominent businessman, supported the Confederate army by donating supplies and funding. He also allowed Confederate generals to use his house as a temporary headquarters during the Civil War.

An Edwards spokeswoman said criticism of the senator's meeting would be "ridiculous."

"This is a national historic landmark," said Jennifer Palmieri. "There's a whole town called Aiken, there are plenty of African-American leaders from South Carolina who are coming to this house for the event."

The NAACP said the move is not likely to hurt his support among black voters. "What he's doing meets our guidelines," said James Gallman, president of the group's South Carolina branch, adding "I'm very pleased with the efforts he has made and the support he has given our boycott."

Edwards, a critic of the state's decision to fly the Confederate flag on state grounds, has not endorsed all terms of the NAACP's boycott, which protests the same issue. But he has vowed not to sleep in hotels while campaigning in the state. Edwards said he wants to "honor" the principles behind the boycott.

Gallman said Edwards' participation in the one-day event does not violate the boycott.

South Carolina is the first Southern primary in the Democratic presidential nomination process, scheduled for February 4, 2004. African-Americans are expected to make up roughly half of the voters in the primary.

Edwards and the Rev. Al Sharpton are the only Democratic candidates who have said they would honor the boycott in some fashion. The others -- Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri -- have said they will not abide by any terms of the boycott.

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