Kerry said the former trial lawyer showed “guts and determination and political skills” in his unsuccessful race for the party’s nomination.
“I have chosen a man who understands and defends the values of America, a man who has shown courage and conviction as a champion for middle-class Americans and for those struggling to reach the middle class, a man who has shown guts and determination and political skills in his own race for the presidency of the United States, a man whose life has prepared him for leadership,” Kerry told a crowd in Pittsburgh.
Kerry first made public his selection of the North Carolinian in an e-mail to supporters just before the Pittsburgh.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am to have John Edwards on my team, or how eager I am for the day this fall when he stands up for our vision and goes toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney,” Kerry wrote.
Responding to the announcement, the Republican National Committee called Edwards a “disingenuous unaccomplished liberal” and “friend to personal injury trial lawyers.”
The two candidates had few major differences during the Democratic primary campaign and both supported the decision to go to war in Iraq. They differed somewhat on free trade, with Edwards often criticizing Kerry’s vote in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Edwards is a supporter of the death penalty, which Kerry opposes.
During the primary campaign, Edwards bested many more experienced candidates, impressing political observers with an ability to connect with voters on the trail. He was also known for his trademark stump speech about the bridging the gap between “two Americas” — the one for the privileged, the other for everyone else.
Once he left the race following a string of defeats in the March Super Tuesday, Edwards campaigned on Kerry’s behalf and urged his contributors to donate to his former rival’s campaign.
Kerry kept his choice for vice president to himself until the last possible minute, giving Edwards no time to get to Pittsburgh in time for the morning rally. The North Carolina senator will come to Pittsburgh later on Tuesday, and the candidates and their families will have dinner together. They then fly to Ohio, a major battleground state, on Wednesday for their first joint appearance.
Edwards, 51, was born in Seneca, S.C., and grew up in Robbins, N.C., where his father was a mill worker. The senator was the first person in his family to go to college.
Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, have three children: Cate, Emma Claire and Jack. Their son Wade died in a traffic accident at age 16 in 1996.
Before entering politics, Edwards worked in private practice in Nashville and Raleigh, N.C., for nearly two decades, earning a fortune from medical malpractice and product liability judgments.
Kerry made the Edwards announcement in advance of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, which begins July 26.