Presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., made an appearance Tuesday in Montgomery, sharing the spotlight with a four-time heavyweight boxing champion.
Edwards raised more than $100,000 at a fund- raising reception attended by Evander Holyfield, who was in the Capital City to play in a celebrity golf tournament.
Former Alabama Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley said the $100,000 was raised before the start of the reception, given by Montgomery grocery chain owner Greg Calhoun, who also handles marketing for Holyfield.
Edwards said he felt it was important to come to Alabama because a “democratic voice in the Southern states” would be crucial to winning the presidential race.
The chief executive officer of Calhoun Foods said the proceeds from the golf tournament will benefit the Sickle Cell Foundation of Greater Montgomery.
“The real purpose here is to help raise support for sickle cell foundation,” he said. “But we also want to help the senator get his name out in the state.”
Media exposure to both Edwards and Holyfield was limited, with only brief public comments before going behind private doors.
Holyfield is a native of Atmore in southern Alabama and now lives in Atlanta.
He said he never imagined as a poor kid in the South that he would ever be the featured guest at a reception for a presidential candidate.
“As a kid, the idea of being successful was not how many people would come to see you, but being able to eat when you were hungry and having a place to stay,” Holyfield said. “It was not about being famous.’
Edwards said the fact that he was raised in a small town in rural North Carolina, where his father worked in a textile mill, positions him well to represent Alabamians.
“I grew up in the South, so I think I understand what Southern values are all about,” he said.
Raised in Robbins, NC., Edwards was the first member of his family to go to college. He earned an honors degree in textiles from North Carolina State University in 1974, and an honors degree in law from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1977.
Edwards is in his first term as a North Carolina senator.
In Congress, Edwards drafted legislation that promoted better health care and better schools. He is concerned with protecting civil liberties, preserving the environment, saving Social Security and Medicare, and reforming the ways campaigns are financed.
“The campaign is going great and I feel terrific about it,” he said. “I want to be a champion for real people.”
Edwards said he hopes the Alabama Legislature passes a bill that would move the state’s presidential preference primary from June to the first Tuesday in February, one week after the New Hampshire primary. The Alabama primary is the last in the nation and is held after the party presidential races have long been decided.
“I think that’s a terrific idea. The South needs to have a strong voice in this election,” Edwards said.
Alabama Democratic Party executive director Marsha Folsom said she hopes Edwards’ visit, along with a recent visit by another Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, is a good sign that Alabama will be on the political map during the presidential race.
“By the end of the year, I think we’ll see all the candidates here,” Folsom said. Like Edwards, she said she hopes the Legislature passes the bill moving the state’s primary date.
“It would give the people of Alabama more of a chance to hear from all the candidates,” she said.
The bill changing the primary date has passed the House and is pending in the Senate.