Christine Stuart photo

Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards gave the local media and others not allowed into a closed-door discussion about how to end poverty about 14-minutes to ask questions Thursday afternoon outside the Northwest Boys and Girls Club in Hartford.

Flanked by a dozen local politicians Edwards said “I am blessed to have been given this national voice.” He said he wants to “be a megaphone” for all those people who don’t have a voice.

As far as the issue of poverty goes Edwards said the substantive issues related to poverty in Hartford, where the poverty rate is 35 percent, are similar to the ones he hears as he travels the country promoting his Half in Ten campaign. The campaign offers a 12-point plan for cutting poverty in half over the next decade.

Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez said “it’s great to have somebody with a national reputation talk about the critical issue of poverty.” He said most of Edwards 12-point plan involves things Hartford already is working on.

Hartford resident Urania Petit, who participated in the roundtable discussion as a member of the Working Families Party, said she’s “excited about the prospect we can do something in just 10 years.”

Christine Stuart photo

So was the only Republican in the room Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Southport, who said the state needs to “get past the partisan gridlock on this issue to get things done.” He said there’s a lot of areas Democrats and Republicans agree on.

One of them is not an increase in the minimum wage. When asked about Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s veto of an increase in the minimum wage, Edwards said flatly, “She’s wrong.” He said in places that have increased the minimum wage the economy has actually improved.

He said things such as raising the minimum wage and organizing workers into unions doesn’t cost government any money.