N.C. lawmakers hit Edwards for trips on minimum wage

By: - July 25, 2005 5:13 am

Wilmington StarNews Online

CHARLOTTE – Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards recently jetted to Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan and Ohio to lead rallies in favor of raising the minimum wage in those states.

Some North Carolina legislators who tried to raise the $5.15-an-hour wage in his home state complain Mr. Edwards, the Democratic nominee for vice president last year, didn’t make a speech or lead any effort to get it passed back home.

"I wish he had come down here when we had the (minimum-wage) bill up" for a vote, said Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, the legislation’s sponsor.

Other Democratic lawmakers backing the increase have offered similar complaints.

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, said Mr. Edwards talked up the minimum wage during the campaign, "but he’s not taking the lead on it here as he is in other states."

The reason is that Mr. Edwards, who moved back to Raleigh from Washington last month, has focused on helping promote ballot initiatives "that will allow voters to have their say," spokeswoman Kim Rubey said.

The North Carolina proposal was legislation for the General Assembly to vote on, as opposed to a choice on the ballot for voters to decide.

The state House defeated a $1-an-hour increase in the minimum wage in early June, but Democratic lawmakers hope to resurrect that effort soon. More than 54,000 North Carolinians were paid at or below the minimum wage last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mr. Edwards’ campaign theme last year centered on closing the gap between the rich and poor. He now heads a center on poverty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The former North Carolina senator is positioning himself for a 2008 presidential run by making speeches to Democratic groups in key primary states, cultivating grass-roots support through his One America Committee Web site and maintaining a political action committee that is bankrolling a Democratic Party staffer’s salary in the all-important first primary state of New Hampshire.

Among the states he visited for minimum-wage speeches, Ohio was a Super Tuesday state in last year’s Democratic primaries, and New Mexico, Arizona and Michigan held crucial early primaries.

North Carolina held its primary months after the nominee was effectively chosen.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066