Nevadans note Edwards

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards rolled out a committee of new Nevada supporters on Thursday, perhaps signaling, in the wake of gains among the state’s unions, that his campaign may be gaining momentum here.

Most significant was the endorsement of Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, whom Edwards named his Northern Nevada campaign chairman. Although a rookie legislator, Bobzien’s endorsement had been hotly sought by the presidential candidates, a courtship the young Web designer chronicled on his blog.

Bobzien, 34, is well regarded, earning "best freshman" accolades in many quarters after his first legislative session this year, and has made the environment his signature issue.

On his Web site, Bobzien asked his constituents for input on whom he should back and chronicled his meetings with the candidates as they traveled to Reno.

In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Bobzien said he was swayed by Edwards’ strong stances on using renewable energy to create jobs.

Also backing Edwards are Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, former longtime Clark County Democratic Party Chairman Charlie Waterman, outgoing one-term Assemblywoman RoseMary Womack, D-Henderson, and party activist and labor official Tom Morley.

In recent weeks, Edwards has received the endorsements of several national labor unions, whose Nevada membership adds up to 24,000. The labor and officials’ endorsements mark a reversal from the negative buzz that surrounded the former North Carolina senator’s Nevada campaign when it was revealed last month that he pulled some staff out of the state to work elsewhere.

Pierce, a three-term assemblywoman, said she was impressed by the specificity of Edwards’ policy proposals and his advocacy for working people.

A former employee of the powerful Culinary union, Pierce has feuded with the state’s biggest unions in recent years, with builders’ unions trying to unseat her in 2006 and the AFL-CIO refusing to endorse her. She kept her seat by less than 200 votes.

Waterman is a venerable figure in Southern Nevada politics, serving as county chairman for more than 20 years before stepping down in 2005. He said Thursday he saw Edwards as the most electable candidate and as an old-school economic liberal in the mold of President Johnson.

"The bottom line for me is that he can win, and I’m absolutely convinced of that, and I’m absolutely convinced that the other two front-runners can’t," he said. "The reason is … the American people don’t want Republican lite anymore. They want dramatic change. They want us to go back to the Democratic Party we used to be."

Waterman and Pierce both echoed failed 2004 candidate Howard Dean’s claim to represent "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," saying that’s how they saw Edwards.

Waterman said Edwards had the courage to stand up for the poor even though "many people associate poverty with color." "It’s not easy to be on the side of people of color who don’t have any money," he said.

Edwards is scheduled to be in Las Vegas this morning, in his first public appearance since responding to President Bush’s Iraq speech in a television commercial Thursday night.

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