Worcester, MA- Nashua, N.H., resident and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) sophomore Andrew J. Edwards will be sworn in on Wednesday, Dec. 6, as a New Hampshire state representative. He will begin his two-year term in January. WPI’s news bureau spoke with Rep.-elect Edwards after the Nov. 7 elections about his decision to run for state office, and how his WPI experience has affected his career aspirations.
Why did you seek elected office?
I've been a partisan activist for a couple of years. Finally this past summer I decided that sending away my money or volunteering for a campaign wasn't enough for me; I wanted to take a direct role in government, and New Hampshire is one of the few states in the union where a person can attain this office, regardless of age or economic background. It could also be, subconsciously, that I don’t like putting all my eggs in one basket.
What is on your agenda as a state legislator? What do you hope to bring to your constituency?
The three major issues that my constituents elected me on were education, the economy, and the environment. While I’m a freshman legislator, I have already talked to other members about possibly co-sponsoring legislation to help solve the education funding crisis in New Hampshire and to promote research on alternative energy sources. Even though I’m not entirely familiar with the health care system, I know that providing health insurance to children and seniors is a top priority for our newly elected Democratic majority, and I can promise the citizens that the minimum wage will be increased.
Are you a member of any campus organizations?
I am vice president of the College Democrats and a member of Amnesty International. Also, I really enjoyed serving in the Student Government Association (SGA), working specifically on the Committee on Academic Issues. I was appointed for D Term last spring and A Term this fall, and left in September due to the increasing demands on my schedule as the campaign heated up. SGA was an incredible experience for me, not because I enjoyed the type of work they dealt with, but because of the quality of some of the students I had the pleasure of serving with.
You are a biochemistry major at WPI. Do you plan to continue in that field, or move on to study political science or law?
I'm glad no one asked me that in my senior year of high school because I probably wouldn't have ended up at WPI. Luckily though, I’ve stuck it out with subjects for which I have a natural aptitude, and now I'm considering possible ways to combine research on biofuels, through my expertise in biochemistry, with study in energy policy to create an individualized natural science/social science degree.
What sparked your interest in politics?
Debate had been a hobby of mine since middle school, but I think my parents were responsible for making the connection to politics. My mother had always been involved in local issues and advocacy for special education at the state and municipal level, and my father opened my eyes to the world of retail politics when he took me “president shopping” with him in 2003, a special privilege that New Hampshire voters have always enjoyed. When I saw Senator John Edwards in my former junior high school cafeteria, with Glenn Close there, as well, to speak on his behalf, there was this weird tingly feeling I got, and I've felt it again many times since then. Whether it was sitting next to Senator Joe Biden telling stories in a back room, seeing eye-to-eye with General Wes Clark in the intimate setting of a private house party, or merely shaking hands with my heroes Senator Russ Feingold and President Clinton, the feeling has only grown stronger and it has made me truly believe that we do have leaders who care about the future of this country and its people, and that I've been given the chance to follow in their footsteps.
Are you concerned that as you get older, your opinions may change, and you may change your party affiliation as well?
In the midst of all the excitement and celebration, my greatest concern right now, for myself and the Democratic Party, is getting sucked into the culture of corruption that besieged the party that just fell from power. My own principles are steadfast, but I’ve come to recognize that greed and power pose the true threat to Democrats like me. Ideologically, I am completely sure of myself. While common wisdom generally holds that liberal youths will become more conservative with age and experience, I went through a transformation at a much younger age than most, rejecting a religious conservative worldview and seeking to cleanse my mind of hypocrisy and confusion. They say that one aspect of maturity is making peace with the establishment. I am beginning to understand the value of finding common ground in politics, but I will try my hardest to never acquiesce to the status quo nor compromise my ethics.
Has WPI had an impact on your life? Did your WPI experience influence your decision to run for office?
Being in a smaller, more tightly-knit body of higher learning has given me the courage to try new things and opportunities for greater involvement and effectiveness in whatever area of interest I explore. Also, coming from a large school system in Nashua where I was a small fish, I find there is more attention given to students here. This has allowed me to become more influential, which in turn has given me more self-confidence and has led to the realization that I actually can make a difference. Accordingly, I felt completely entitled to exercise my civic duty in one of the greatest ways possible, and given the incredible degree of representation we enjoy in New Hampshire, I did not for a second believe that this position was unattainable.
What was your family's reaction when you told them you were running for office?
They were shocked at how easy it was for me to file for candidacy. Over the summer they were scared that I was really going to go through with it, but I think they managed to convince themselves that I wasn't serious. Once the campaign season actually started, however, they understood that it was for real, that I needed their complete loyalty and encouragement. Since then, their personal sacrifice to my campaign has been enormous. Still, more than my family at home in Nashua, there is someone who has given far more than financial support, and that is my girlfriend, Connie Tran. Balancing school and politics took a lot out of me and she was there for me every step of the way. Frankly I don't know if I could've kept it together without her help.