John Edwards announcement blitz stops in Reno | NevadaAppeal.com

John Edwards announcement blitz stops in Reno

KATHLEEN HENNESSEY
Associated Press Writer

Chad Lundquist/AssociatedPress Former North Carolina senator and 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards speaks to supporters at a town hall style meeting, Friday in Reno.

RENO – Still in the first blush of presidential courtship, Nevada Democrats welcomed White House hopeful John Edwards Friday with a standing-room only crowd and pointed questions about the deficit, immigration and the war.

The former North Carolina senator and Democratic vice-presidential candidate drew a crowd of nearly 1,000 people to the convention hall of a Reno casino and told them to get active.

“We cannot stay at home and wait for the next election. The power is not with the politicians in Washington, the power is with you,” he said.

Reno was the fourth stop on Edwards’ six-state, three-day blitz announcing his second bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. He’s the third Democrat to formally make the leap, and the early announcement is an attempt to build grass-roots organization in key early contests.

Nevada is new to that category, recently having won a No. 2 spot – between Iowa and New Hampshire – on Democrats’ nomination calendar. Democrats hope the move will give more minority and union voters a say.

Edwards has made an strong effort to court the latter here since the 2004 election, making regular appearances at union meetings and campaigning for an increase in the minimum wage.

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His “Town Hall” Friday night was his eighth Nevada visit since the 2004 election, his sixth this year.

The laid-back question-and-answer format suited the 53-year-old former senator, who officially launched his campaign Thursday in shirt sleeves at a New Orleans home damaged by Hurricane Katrina. He quickly removed his coat and rolled up his sleeves Friday as he answered questions for 45 minutes.

Edwards called for universal health care and said, if elected, his health plan, along with anti-poverty efforts, would take priority over deficit reduction. He called for an immediate withdrawal of 40,000-50,000 troops in Iraq.