Md. Democrats in Congress say choice broadens ticket's appeal

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - John Kerry's selection of John Edwards, his former rival, to be his running mate pleased many Maryland Democratic officials, who said Edwards brings personal qualities that would strengthen the party's ticket.

At the same time, some state Republican leaders pronounced the two a pairing of liberals who would serve as a boon for President Bush's re-election prospects.


Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said Kerry's choice of Edwards reflects a nexus of geography, personality, values and common sense.

"I think what people see in the Kerry-Edwards team is not only a balance of North and South, but you have two dedicated and capable people," the Maryland Democrat said. "John Edwards is dynamic, he's smart; in his life background he stood up for the little guy. These are things that matter."


Mikulski, who sits on two committees with Edwards - Select Intelligence and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions - said the freshman senator from North Carolina will broaden the appeal of the Democrats' bid for the White House.

"He brings that kind of sunny optimistic personality, and he cares about the loss of jobs, loss of health care, loss of opportunity," she said. "Together, they appeal to the swing voter who now wants to see No. 1, leadership, and No. 2, leadership that can deliver."

Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Prince George's County Democrat and a supporter of Edwards during the primaries, said the senator could help draw minority voters "because he comes from a Southern background where he had a lot of working-class constituents, and he understands the problems of working-class Americans."

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat, said he thought Edwards' voting record - slightly more moderate than Kerry's - would complement the Massachusetts senator's perceived liberal leaning. "I think it brings balance to the ticket ... a more moderate philosophical approach," he said.

A moderate ticket would bring disparate voters together in November, agreed Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who had urged Kerry in recent conversations to pick Edwards. "The Kerry-Edwards ticket will unite Americans of all backgrounds," the Baltimore Democrat said.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, conceded that Edwards brings a dose of charm and vitality to the Democratic ticket but said the senator would contribute little more.

"I think he's bright, telegenic and charismatic," Ehrlich said. "He reminds you of Bill Clinton."

But Edwards' background as a highly successful plaintiff's attorney in malpractice and liability law could turn off many voters, the governor suggested.


Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Western Maryland Republican, couldn't resist a jab.

"Edwards and Kerry are a good fit," Bartlett said. "They're both liberal - that's why President Bush and Vice President Cheney will be re-elected."

In any case, many said they thought Kerry's running mate would make little or no difference in Maryland, a state that both campaigns place squarely in the Democratic column.

Still, said Paul S. Herrnson, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, the presence of a young and attractive politician on the ticket provides "a clear alternative in a debate against Vice President Dick Cheney."

Sun staff writer Riley McDonald contributed to this article.