Maine Democrats did not want John Edwards as their presidential candidate – the North Carolina senator finished fourth in the party’s statewide caucuses – but they like the idea of him as John Kerry’s running mate.

Dorothy Melanson, chairwoman of the Maine Democratic Party, said Kerry’s choice for vice president was met with universal approval on Tuesday.

“Everybody I’ve spoken to has raved about the news,” Melanson said. “I think they share values. I think both of them want to make America stronger at home and more respected around the world.”

Melanson said she looks forward to Edwards coming to Maine, a stop he did not make during his presidential campaign. Edwards finished in fourth place after Kerry, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich in the Maine caucuses.

Although Edwards didn’t fare well in Maine, he outlasted Dean and was the last candidate to bow out to Kerry.

Dwayne Bickford, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, was critical of the choice, saying Kerry, the most liberal member of the Senate, had chosen another liberal for the ticket.

“We think it gives voters a clear choice in November – the choice between President Bush and his positive economic message and John Kerry and his pessimistic message,” Bickford said.

An enthusiastic Gov. John Baldacci described the Edwards-Kerry ticket as a “great one-two punch.”

“We have the two strongest candidates in the primary process, and the north and south. Edwards is strong on heath care and enthusistic on the issue of the loss of manufacturing jobs. I’m excited about it,” he said.

Baldacci, Melanson and other Democrats said they liked Edwards’ personal story as the son of a mill worker, the first in his family to go to college and a trial lawyer who fought for regular folks.

Baldacci said he felt Edwards’ story would resonate in the second district, where most of Maine’s paper mills are located. “As people get to know his story, they’re really going to relate to him,” Melanson added.

State Treasurer Dale McCormick, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, said she also liked the positive way Edwards conducted his presidential campaign.

“I think people will instantly see it as a plus for the ticket, and a good match for Kerry,” she said.

More on Democrats Kerry, Edwards, pages A1, A7

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