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Former vice-presidential hopefuls to face off at McCall Forum

DEBATE --John Edwards and Jack Kemp will trade barbs at Pacific Univeristy's annual matchup of political opposites

Two men who came close to being a heartbeat away from the U.S. presidency will square off in Portland next year, in what could be one of the nation's first-major political forums after this fall's election.

Pacific University announced last week that the 2007 Tom McCall Forum will feature John Edwards and Jack Kemp discussing 'Reclaiming the American Dream in a Divided Nation.'

Edwards, a North Carolina senator, was John Kerry's running mate on the Democratic ticket in 2004.

Kemp, a Republican congressman from New York, was Bob Dole's vice-presidential choice in the 1996 fall election.

The March match-up continues Pacific's tradition, started 25 years ago, of staging liberal vs. conservative debates.

While several past participants have taken the stage after making presidential runs, forum founder Russ Dondero said the 2007 event will mark the first time that one of the participants will be on stage as a White House contender. Edwards has not officially announced his plans, but he is expected to seek the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Organizers say the two men will discuss the growing gap between rich and poor.

'The Declaration of Independence begins with these soaring words of Thomas Jefferson: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,'' said Dondero, professor emeritus and a founder of the Tom McCall Forum. 'In the roaring '90s it appeared that even the poorest among us was beginning to live out that promise. Then came the dot-com bust and with it harder times.

'Despite tax cuts and a stronger economy, there are serious divisions within our nation between the 'haves' and 'have-nots'; between the rich and an increasingly struggling middle class; and between those living in urban and rural America.

Many among us are a job loss or catastrophic illness away from being homeless. Will the American dream of a good paying job, home ownership and the safety net - Social Security to Medicare - be there for future generations?'

Created in 1982 by the students and faculty of Pacific University's Politics and Law Forum, the Tom McCall Forum previously has featured Pat Buchanan, Tom Daschle, Howard Dean, Richard Perle, Molly Ivins, William Kristol, Bill Bradley, David Gergen, Ralph Nader, Newt Gingrich, Jesse Jackson, Mario Cuomo, and Dan Quayle.

Next year's forum will be held at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 8, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland.

Tickets for the Forum go on sale Oct. 16 through the Pacific University box office at 503-352-2918 or through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com. Prices are $20 or $25.