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Edwards' Political Career A Model Of Resiliency

July 20, 2010

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Ashley Cruseturner, professor of history at McLennan Community College, says that political science students will someday write theses about the career of Democrat Chet Edwards, the twenty-year incumbent who has held onto his seat in what the Cook Political Report rates as the 19th most Republican district in the nation. That begs the question, particularly to outsiders, how has he done it?

There's a tension Edwards has navigated, even more deftly since redistricting made the 17th even more conservative the last 6 years. In a district that votes largely Republican for president, Edwards has had to convince a number of voters to split tickets. Michael Barone, conservative columnist and editor for the Almanac of American Politics says that's not something many representatives can do.

Edwards has been at the forefront of a number of issues important to the area: miltary affairs, veterans benefits, saving the V.A. hospital, and even the potential Big 12 split a few weeks back. He's also someone well-known, often called by his first name. David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, says that a lot of credit goes to Edwards and his team. They've brought home the bacon, but in the political minefield, that's not always enough. The Edwards team has managed to adapt with each unique election, while maintaining close ties to his base, a skill which has benefited him every two years.

Michael Barone says these skills will be vital to Edwards in a 2010 election that he said could be the challenge of his political career. But even as the political tide seems to be shifting against him and Democrat leadership, Edwards still has the moderate Democrat tag, something this district has traditionally liked. In a conservative district, that reputation is vital. A big reason for that, says Ashley Cruseturner, comes from his support for military, a stance overwhelmingly endorsed by the members of this district.

Tomorrow we'll look at the political climate and the efforts undertaken nationwide to unseat Edwards and others like him. You can see prior stories and more online at kwbu.org. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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