STRATHAM — About 60 people gathered at Tom and Jennifer Snow's house in Stratham to see presidential hopeful John Edwards on Saturday night.
Eileen Strasser of Stratham who waited outside in the rain before Edwards arrived said that the biggest issue she is concerned about in the election is health care.
"Controlling medical care costs and the cost of insurance has to be addressed," Strasser said, noting that she has not yet made up her mind who she is voting for. "I'm still checking out the candidates."
During the house party Edwards covered a litany of topics including health care, global warming, campaign financing and immigration.
"We desperately need universal health care in this country," Edwards said, stating that the drug companies and lobbyist were standing in the way of reaching that goal. Edwards said health care coverage needs to be mandatory and accessible to everyone, including the homeless, the mentally ill and veterans.
In response to a question from the audience, Edwards said the power of the government has to be used to negotiate prescription drug prices downwards. The cost of prescription drugs is the last thing anybody, especially someone on a fixed income should have to worry about, said Edwards.
Not only did Edwards call for a downward trend in prescription drug costs but in greenhouse emissions as well. He'd like an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2050, stating that "global warming is a crisis we need to take seriously." Edwards said that he favors exploring alternative energy and does not believe in building more coal power plants until the technology exists for carbon containment.
Edwards repeated his call for sacrifice by the American people, stating that the United States has the worse economic disparity since the depression. Edwards said that he favors an increase in the hourly minimum wage to $9.50.
"We don't need a surge in Baghdad, we need a surge in America," said Edwards.
Edwards stated the United States has to work to restore its damaged reputation in the global arena. Edwards said he would work to ensure that young Muslims start to view the United States as a country of hope and opportunity, rather than a country that stands for bullying and selfishness.
On the issue of immigration, Edwards touted greater border protections and technology as a means of reducing illegal aliens. As for immigrants already here, Edwards said that he favors a citizenship program that includes fines as well as a requirement that applicants be fluent in English. Edwards said he rejected any proposals that would create a system of first-class citizens and second-class workers.
Former state representative Marcia Moody of Newmarket asked Edwards how he was going to address the divisions existing in the both political parties. Edwards emphasized the need for grassroots efforts as a basis for political change and stated that he believed that the Democratic Party should be "the party of the people." Edwards stated that he strongly believed that campaigning should be done in all 50 states to ensure that everyone's voice is heard.
Those in attendance included Edwards' supporters as well as the undecided. Ed Burke of Stratham, who described himself as an independent, expressed skepticism regarding how Edwards' plans such as free college and universal health care.
Christian Citarella, an educator from Stratham, said that he thought Edwards was a great speaker, but wondered how he could accomplish all his goals.
"His ideas are great, and I'm all for what, he says but I don't think they can be achieved because there's too much opposition in Congress and elsewhere. We need more consensus building and less polarization. I'm wondering how he will do that," said Citarella.
Citarella said he'd like to see Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico when he comes back to New Hampshire. "Richardson has already worked on the world stage and I think that's a huge plus."
Tim McSweeny of Stratham said he works for a pharmaceutical company and therefore was curious about Edward's health care positions. "I found it a bit contradictory that he said he supported buying local and also supported people buying prescription drugs from Canada."
Edwards' message rang true for Sue DeVitto of Rochester who said she believes Edwards would restore trust to the government. "He is the type of leader who is willing to listen to everyone and to explore all sides of the issues. I feel he can get this country back on track."
Host Jennifer Snow said she is originally from North Carolina and was impressed with Edwards' work on behalf of that state.
"I feel he has a very comprehensive health care plan and that he is decisive about the war and the economy. I was happy for the opportunity to have him come to my home so that neighbors and other members of the community could have the chance to hear his ideas," Snow said.