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Edwards: Raise minimum pay

Ex-senator warns of tough campaign at ballot box

Virginia Smith, 83, and Julia Sunderlin, 48, are among the about 350 people listening to former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Virginia Smith, 83, and Julia Sunderlin, 48, are among the about 350 people listening to former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards and other Democrats urged Arizonans to raise the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade.

At a rally in Tucson on Monday, Edwards, the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2004, joined U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and other federal, state and local politicians.

“There will be a lot of money and powerful interests aligned against us,” Edwards told an enthusiastic crowd of about 350 at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall, 750 S. Tucson Blvd. “We have to stand together.”

Arizona voters will likely be asked in November whether to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $5.95 an hour. The Arizona Minimum Wage Coalition says it turned in more than 200,000 signatures in support of the initiative.

By mid-August, the Secretary of State’s Office should determine if the initiative has the 122,612 valid signatures needed for ballot approval, Deputy Secretary of State Kevin Tyne said.

Arizona is one of six states without a minimum wage, leaving the federal law as the standard.

Under the ballot initiative, on July 1, 2008, the wage would rise again, to $6.75, then be adjusted for inflation each year.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business groups are opposed to the increase.

But the proposal enjoys widespread support among Arizonans, including Gov. Janet Napolitano.

A Grand Canyon State Poll in March found 81 percent of Arizonans in favor of the initiative, researchers at Northern Arizona University say.

Democrats yesterday criticized Republicans in Washington, D.C., and at the state Capitol for failing to raise the minimum wage.

Some of the candidates hope the initiative will increase voter turnout among Democrats in November and carry them to victory.

Speaking at Monday’s rally, Democrat Jim Pederson criticized his opponent, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, for voting against minimum wage increases.

Edwards, considered a potential candidate in the 2008 race for president, has also lobbied for a minimum wage increase in Ohio. He directs the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Edwards spoke in support of raising Arizona's minimum wage at a rally Monday at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall.

Edwards spoke in support of raising Arizona's minimum wage at a rally Monday at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall.

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