Edwards, 87, served as the state's governor four disparate times, his first term beginning in 1972 and his most recent stint ending in 1996. Reading about those first 40 years of his career sparked my interest, but it was his life post-2001 that truly lit my fire. That was the year Edwards was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to ten years in federal prison.
Upon release in 2011 (his served out the rest of his sentence on house arrest), Edwards married his third wife, Trina, who had been his prison pen pal. She gave birth to Edwards' fifth child in 2013. A year later, Edwards announced his intention to run for the open congressional seat in Louisiana's 6th district.
I visited Edwards the day after Labor Day, at his campaign headquarters outside of Baton Rogue. It was a well-kept, sparsely decorated office building in a densely-packed constellation of similarly-designed office spaces. The campaign's manager, Ari Krupkin, met me at the door.
"Would you like something to drink?" he asked. "Bourbon?"
Edwards was running late and another member of the campaign was laying in the back room with, they feared, a broken toe. Krupkin's father, a doctor, was on his way to address the situation in-house.
"Will it hurt?" she asked.
"No," Krupkin said to her, while vigorously nodding his head in the affirmative to me, just out of her line of sight. "He's gentle."
When Edwards and his wife eventually arrived, I was surprised to find that they looked like a great, normal couple despite their 51 year age difference. Trina seemed as caring as Edwards seemed spry. He had a quiet strength that left him looking 20 years younger than he really was, the only sign of his age being his difficultly hearing.
Our interview was very short and did not yield much information. It was supposed to be about the history of the "jungle elections" process in Louisiana, but even these dry questions were hard to elicit responses to.
Clocking in at just under 14 minutes, our interview was largely comprised of Krupkin translating (i.e. yelling) my questions at Edwards and Edwards giving me frustratingly terse responses. Though I would not describe him as unwelcoming or reproachful, he was the personification of reticence. I gained little insight into his personality, or his psyche, or whatever other intangibles a journalist hopes to gather about their source with a single glance.
After I turned off the recorder and began to say my goodbyes, he became more genial. "Watch out for those Cajun boys," he warned me, joking that they weren't suitable company for a pretty girl like me. I looked at him, expecting a glint in his eyes, or a devilish grin. But there were no expressions cliche or otherwise. Nothing at all.
That crisp fall morning in Baton Rouge will stick with me, despite my inability to pull back the veil on this legendary character. I will always be taken with Edwards and his peculiar Southern story. His understated responses, whether inspired by a lifetime of distrust of the press, or the near-decade spent in prison, only heightened the intrigue.
You just can't shake a man who can't vote, but wins the vote of everyone he meets.
"You know, we did a poll and If Gov. Edwards ran against our current governor today," Krupkin told me, "he'd win."
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