Democratic presidential contender John Edwards said Sunday he would consider raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to fund programs such as universal health care.
Edwards has long said he wants to repeal the tax cuts on upper-income earners enacted during the Bush presidency, but Sunday he seemed to go further, by saying he was open to raising them higher than they were before George W. Bush took office. He also said he would consider taxes on "excess profits," including those made by oil companies.
Edwards said it was more important to level with voters than to worry about the political consequences of advocating higher taxes.
"It's just the truth," Edwards said during a news conference following his speech to the California Democratic Party convention. "It's the only way to fund the things that need to be done."
Edwards said his plan to provide universal health coverage would cost $90 billion to $120 billion a year.
He spoke on the last day of a convention that, because of California's early presidential primary, attracted nearly all the major candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Sen. Joe Biden, campaigning in South Carolina, was the only hopeful to pass up the convention.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also appeared, contrasting himself to Edwards as a business-friendly Democrat who would not raise taxes. And while the other candidates praised California for leading the way on environmental legislation, Richardson said his state was doing even better.
"New Mexico today is the clean energy state," he said. "We've surpassed you here in California."
During an extended news conference, Richardson acknowledged making a mistake at last week's Democratic debate in South Carolina when he named Byron White as his favorite Supreme Court justice. White, who died in 2002, dissented from Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973.
Richards, who supports abortion rights in keeping with Democratic Party orthodoxy, said he named White in the debate because he had been appointed by President Kennedy and he was an All-American football player. Richardson said he had not remembered White's role in the abortion case.
Feeling 'despair and powerlessness'
Obama continued campaigning in California on Sunday, appearing at the First A.M.E. church in Los Angeles on the 15th anniversary of the Rodney King riots.
He recalled watching them on television when he was a law student at Harvard University and feeling a "sense of despair and powerlessness." He said inner-city problems of poverty and inequality that stoked the violence were not unique to Los Angeles.
"Although the fires, violence were at a magnitude that had not been seen for a very long time, there had been a quiet riot taking place not just in Los Angeles but all across the country," he said.
Pop star Stevie Wonder listened from the front row, then joined Obama onstage and broke into song.
Edwards, attended a fundraiser later Sunday in Reno, Nev., where he said in an interview that his rural roots and seasoning in a national campaign set him apart from Clinton and Obama.
"Because I grew up in a rural area, I understand a lot of the sort of independent spirit that people in the West have," Edwards told The Associated Press. "I saw the same things where I grew up. I have a natural connection with a lot of people in the West the way I grew up."