'Hope Is On the Way,' Edwards Assures Latinos in Los Angeles
By James Rainey
Times Staff Writer
Campaigning in Los Angeles for the first time since being tapped as Sen. John F. Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards on Friday employed high-flying rhetoric and the image of a struggling mother in appealing for support from Latino voters.
The centerpiece of Edwards' 24-hour stay in the city was an address Friday night in Universal City to leaders of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. The speech was part of a continuing effort by Kerry's presidential campaign to reach out to Latinos, following complaints from some leaders that the important voting group was receiving too little attention.
As he has frequently on the stump this year, Edwards invoked his small-town upbringing in North Carolina to seek common ground with the audience of about 900.
He then described a hardworking — though hypothetical — mother struggling to keep her family together while holding down two jobs and waiting for her husband, a National Guardsman, to return home from Iraq.
The mother — which Edwards has said was a composite of people he had met on the campaign trail — was a standard part of his speeches during his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. He would refer to her to underscore his contention that the nation had become divided into "two Americas … one America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward."
In his remarks Friday, Edwards described the mother as "working two jobs to pay the rent and feed and clothe her kids." Edwards added a new detail: that the woman's husband was in Iraq with a National Guard unit. The man had been overseas a year, his return uncertain, and his wife left "thinking she's alone with her struggle," he said.
"But tonight there's something we want to say to her," Edwards told the crowd. "She is not alone. We see her; we hear her voice. We will embrace her; we will lift her up."
Edwards said such struggling families should know that under the Democrats, there was reason for hope.
He repeated the phrase "hope is on the way" several times, invoking a series of images of Americans in need. The refrain won loud applause, whoops and whistles from the audience at the Universal City Hilton and Towers
Mario Rodriguez, regional chairman for President Bush's reelection effort, released a statement saying he doubted that many Latinos would be attracted to the Democrats once they studied their records. The Democratic agenda, he said, would lead to higher taxes and a failure to prevent unnecessary abortions.
"I can't see many Latinos agreeing with those positions or sharing those so-called values," Rodriguez said.
Edwards on Friday had lunch at Spago and attended a nighttime fundraiser downtown. Together with an event in Orange County today, the campaign expected to bring in $1 million. He also dropped by the Farmers Market in the Fairfax district, shaking the hands of shoppers and diners, several of whom called out, "Go get 'em, John!"
Edwards was on the third day of his first solo tour of America since Kerry named him last week as his vice presidential pick.
The Universal City dinner honored the 30th anniversary of Southwest Voter, an organization that has campaigned for Latino voting rights. Edwards told the audience that his hometown of Robbins, N.C., had become home to a growing number of Latinos in recent years.
He said the newcomers were seeking the same opportunities — "the bright light of America" — that helped him climb from modest roots to a successful law career and a seat in the U.S. Senate. A Democratic victory in the fall, he said, was critical to expanding opportunity.
Edwards cited a series of statistics to suggest that Americans in general, and Latinos in particular, were suffering under Bush. He pledged support for immigration changes to let noncitizens, particularly farmworkers, stay in America legally.
Edwards is scheduled to fly to Florida before returning to North Carolina
to prepare for the Democratic convention, which begins July 26 in Boston.