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Edwards will focus on health care

Candidate due to appear in a town-hall format at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Medford Armory

Sen. John Edwards will

make a campaign stop Wednesday morning at the Medford Armory, holding a town-hall meeting on health care and fielding questions from Southern Oregon residents.

Edwards, the Democratic candidate for vice president, will fly to Medford late Tuesday night and stay at an undisclosed location, said Lisa Sohn, presidential candidate John Kerry's Oregon spokeswoman.

The town-hall meeting is open to the public, although tickets are required.

It will be open to anyone who wants to come, and it will be open to undecideds as well as dedicated Democrats, said Bill Layton, chairman of the Jackson County Democratic Central Committee.

Tickets will be available after noon today at Jackson County Democratic Headquarters, 130 E. Main St. Call 776-7875 for more information.

— Doors to the armory at 1701 S. Pacific Highway, will open at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, with Edwards scheduled to speak at 10 a.m.

Sohn said the town-hall format offers a chance for Edwards to respond directly to questions from local residents. It allows you to have a conversation with people, she said.

Because of the style of event, about 2,000 people are expected to attend, she said.

On Wednesday, after his local appearance, he will make campaign stops in Eugene and Portland.

Then on Thursday, President George Bush will hold an afternoon rally at the Jackson County Expo Center. He also plans on spending the night at an undisclosed location in Jacksonville.

Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for president, and Vice President Dick Cheney made campaign appearances at the Expo Center during the summer.

Sohn said health care is one of the primary issues affecting Oregonians.

Health-care premiums have gone through the roof for more and more people, she said.

Edwards will be discussing Kerry's plan to improve coverage for Americans primarily by repealing Bush's tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, Sohn said. He wouldn't, however, repeal the tax cuts for most Americans, she said.

Citing U.S. Census figures, she said 180,000 Oregonians have lost health care under Bush, bringing to 613,000 Oregonians who don't have coverage.

Nationwide, Sohn said, There are 5.2 million more people without health care under George Bush, with 1.4 million losing it in the last year alone. The total number of people without health care in the country, she said, is 45 million.

Tracey Schmitt, spokeswoman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said both Kerry and Edwards, a trial lawyer, have opposed medical liability reform, which would bring down health-care costs.

Kerry, she said, has voted against reform 10 times, and has failed to push through legislation that would bring health-care reform.

John Kerry's has been in the Senate 20 years and did nothing to curb costs, she said.

She added that Bush, on the other hand, signed the Medicare prescription drug bill. It is a drug discount card program that provides discounted prices to beneficiaries.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail