Democratic Presidential Hopeful Edwards Gets Prime Iowa Town Meeting Date

By the luck of the draw, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards got the prime date for a series of town meetings Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin plans to hold in the state as a leadup to the 2004 precinct caucuses.

Representatives from six of the Democratic presidential campaigns drew sealed envelopes from a cardboard box at the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters on Thursday to determine where and when they would appear with Harkin, one of the most powerful Democrats in the state. Harkin, now in his fourth term in the Senate, had decided to hold the meetings in the spring and fall to host the candidates.

The campaign for North Carolina's Edwards drew April in Polk County, the state's largest. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's representative drew June in Cerro Gordo County in northern Iowa. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will appear in Davenport in May. Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt will be in Dubuque in July. The Rev. Al Sharpton will be in Sioux City in August, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman will be in Cedar Rapids in September.

Looking for any means to gain ground with Iowa Democrats, none of the candidates wanted to pass on the forums and Harkin's version of a beauty pageant.

"It's just like Joe Millionaire," gushed Jean Hessburg, the party's executive director, as she watched the drawing.