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Goodby to a Principled Politician

January 30, 1994

All Californians have benefited from the distinguished congressional service of Rep. Don Edwards--a hard-working, principled Democrat from San Jose. His decision to retire at the end of his current term, after 32 years on Capitol Hill, is to be noted with regret.

As chairman of the House judiciary subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights, Edwards has been one of the most ardent civil libertarians in Washington. He got to that point from what would seem an unlikely background: The former Young Republican and FBI agent first ran for Congress in 1962 after a successful business career.

He was one of the first in Congress to push for abolition of McCarthy-era committees on so-called un-American activities. He later sponsored the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and fought for the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington as far back as 1971.

His most noteworthy recent contribution was helping found the California Institute, a privately funded research center designed to inspire California's congressional delegation, which now numbers 54, to work in a unified manner on issues important to the state. This is a noble goal.

Despite his liberalism, Edwards reached out to the state's many conservatives and asked them to work with him for the sake of California. And, as the dean of Congress' biggest--although not always its most effective--delegation, Edwards provided valuable leadership in bringing at least a semblance of unity to an often unruly group. That may yet prove his greatest legacy to California.

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