By David Gutman, Capital News Service
Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards, in a brief speech at the Democratic convention that drew deeply on her personal history, made a case for President Barack Obama, citing his reforms in education and health care.
"I'm a first-generation graduate from Wake Forest University," Edwards said, playing to the North Carolina crowd. "My parents paid for my education on a patchwork of grants, loans and savings. It's the same way we financed my son's college education 25 years later."
Edwards, who represents Maryland's 4th Congressional District, then credited Obama with making what she called, "the single largest investment in higher education ever."
The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, an addendum to the president's health care law of 2010, provided $40 billion to strengthen Pell Grants, $2 billion for community colleges, $2.5 billion for historically black colleges and similar institutions and the ability for students to cap loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income.
Edwards told the crowd how she struggled as the single mother of a toddler. When she came down with pneumonia, the hospital bills nearly caused her to lose her home to foreclosure and forced her to go to a food bank.
"I support President Barack Obama because he gets it. He knows that no one should end up in an emergency room, facing financial ruin and the loss of a middle-class life, just because they can't afford a doctor's visit and $20 of antibiotics."
The speech was noteworthy for its positivity. Not once did Edwards mention or even refer to Mitt Romney or the Republican Party.
Edwards was the fifth and final member of Maryland's delegation to speak at the Democratic National Convention this week.
The appearance helps elevate her stature in the party and may boost her chances of becoming Democratic caucus vice chairman, a post that Politico has reported she is seeking. Her campaign has denied that she's interested in the slot.
Edwards is already co-chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red to Blue" campaign, which gives money and assistance to the most competitive Democratic challengers in House races nationwide. Her Maryland colleague Rep. Chris Van Hollen, ranking Budget Committee member and rising star in the Democratic Party, headed the program for the 2006 cycle, and it increased his visibility and popularity in the party.
Edwards also spoke earlier this week at a breakfast for the California delegation, home, not coincidentally, to many powerful congressional Democrats.
"We have to get to 25 seats," Edwards said, referencing the number that Democrats need to regain control of the House. "And guess what, California's got a third of them right here."