Fresh act: 87-year-old felon Edwin Edwards wants back in Congress

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Story highlights

  • Former Louisiana governor, congressman Edwin Edwards running for U.S. House
  • Edwards, 87, served in Congress 50 years ago before being elected governor four times
  • Edwards went to prison in 2002 for extorting millions for riverboat casino licenses
It's Sunday morning at the New Life Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but the man preaching to the choir is no minister.
"My God is not finished with me yet," he tells the congregation.
The man speaking is Edwin W. Edwards -- ex-four-term Louisiana governor, ex-four-term congressman and ex-con.
"I may be old and rancid butter, but I'm on your side of the bread," he proclaims from the altar.
Unrepentant and unapologetic, Edwards is in church not looking for forgiveness. The 87-year-old is looking for votes. After almost nine years in prison, the flamboyant showman of Louisiana politics has a fresh act -- running for Congress -- co-starring his 35-year-old wife, Trina, and their 1-year-old baby. This is his third marriage.
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Fifty years after his first stint on Capitol Hill, Edwards would no doubt rather be running for governor again. But he's running for a seat in Congress because Louisiana law doesn't allow felons to run for state office -- until they've been out of prison for 15 years. By then, Edwards would be 98 -- so he's taking this shot instead.
His chances? The district is now bright red, but never mind.
Political experts think Edwards at least has a good shot of making it into a runoff because of his universal name recognition and the size of the field: he's running against nine Republicans, two other Democrats and one Libertarian. If no candidate gets 50% in November, the top two then will face off in December.
"He is gonna make the runoff hands-down unless some kinda Christmas morning miracle happens and pushes him out," says Jeremy Alford, publisher of LaPolitics.com. Edwards won the backing of state Democrats last week.
While Edwards was happy to re-enter the political arena, his wife of four years wasn't fully on board. Did she want him to run?
"Not particularly. I would naturally support him in whatever he chose to do," Trina Edwards says. "But it's not really my thing."
Edwards' relationship with Trina began as his prison pen pal, which led to love at first sight when she visited him. "I was expecting him to be angry or bitter, and he just wasn't," she tells us.
As for Edwards he recounts what she told him when they met.
Edwards: Never profited from taxpayers
"She said, 'If you don't mind, I only live 30 minutes from here. I'd like to come back and visit you.' That's like throwin' a rubber raft to a drowning man."
He went to prison in 2002 after a felony conviction of extorting millions in exchange for riverboat casino licenses -- and served his time. To this day, Edwards says he never took a dime from the taxpayers.
"In all this claptrap about how crooked I am and what I stole, nobody's ever charged me, or accused me, of taking money from the taxpayers," he tells CNN. "It had nothin' to do with my career as a public official. Nothin."
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After getting free in January 2011, he and Trina married. Last year they had a son. So now Edwards is the father to children in their 60s, a wife half their age and a baby.
"He gets up with him in the morning," Trina Edwards says. "He changed diapers. He bathes him, He puts his clothes on. He feeds him."
If this seems like a reality TV show it was -- briefly -- entitled "The Governor's Wife" on the A&E network. What was it like for them doing it? "It's horrible," she says. His take: "it was unbelievable." The couple now says the whole thing was kind of annoying. The critics and viewers agreed.
They admit they are bit of an odd couple -- and it's not just age. Trina is a Republican. Edwards is an old-time populist Democrat who wants to return to Congress exactly 50 years since his first stint there.
When the 6th District congressional seat became open, he says he thought, "That's my chance. I've got a second chance, and I'm going to take it. And I'm gonna surprise everyone."
As for what he would say to those who ask about sending a convicted felon to Washington, "People say, well, they're all crooks anyhow. You might as well send an experienced one."