- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2000

CARTHAGE, Tenn. Tracy Mayberry let out a little cheer yesterday as Vice President Al Gore's plumbers lugged her clogged toilet out to the front lawn, drizzling a trail of foul water across her scuffed hardwood floors.
Before going public with complaints about her famous landlord, Mrs. Mayberry said she was routinely brushed off by Mr. Gore's property managers, who told her any repairs to her rented house had to be approved personally by the vice president.
So Mrs. Mayberry now doubts Mr. Gore's assertion that he knew nothing about the unsanitary conditions at the house, on the edge of his 80-acre estate, until they were exposed by a local Nashville television station on Friday.
"I believe he had knowledge of the problems but was putting them off because of the election," Mrs. Mayberry told The Washington Times during a tour of her home yesterday. "Somebody had to know something."
But Mr. Gore said that isn't so. Asked by reporters about being called a "slumlord" by Mrs. Mayberry, the vice president said: "I heard there was a problem. I took action to make sure that it will be solved. And it will be."
To that end, Mr. Gore yesterday dispatched a platoon of plumbers and repairmen to the house, where they removed the toilet and began snaking out clogged septic lines.
One work crew was expected to replace the kitchen linoleum, which is so worn that large patches of floorboards are exposed underneath. Another planned to paint the stained walls, which have not received a fresh coat of paint since long before the Mayberrys moved in 18 month ago.
Mrs. Mayberry welcomed the renovation, but expressed regret that it began only after Mr. Gore experienced political fallout for the condition of his own property.
"It bothers me that we had to go to such lengths to get something done," she said. "It's been nearly a year since we started complaining."
Meanwhile, Republicans grumbled yesterday that the story was being downplayed by much of the press, which they said would have pounced if "slumlord" accusations had been leveled against their presumptive presidential nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, a self-styled "compassionate conservative."
They complained that while The Washington Times, Weekly Standard and New York Post have visited the Mayberry home in recent days, publications such as The Washington Post and the New York Times have stayed away. And while Fox News Channel has covered the story, Mr. Gore was not asked about it during an interview yesterday on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Still, there was enough attention paid to cause chest pains for Charles Mayberry, who lives on disability payments from Social Security because he has heart disease and diabetes. Mr. Mayberry, who previously lived in a cramped trailer with his wife and five of their children, became especially anxious when he was informed last week he was being evicted by Gore Realty.
"I don't want to move back to a trailer," Mr. Mayberry said yesterday.
Mr. Gore nixed the eviction after it went public and offered to move the family into a temporary house while their home is renovated. But it now appears the Mayberrys will be allowed to remain in the home as workers make the repairs.
Mrs. Mayberry was sitting at her kitchen table yesterday when the toilet was hauled outside. The sight filled her with satisfaction.
"I've hit it; I've cursed it; I'd like to take a gun and shoot it," she said with a laugh. "It's overflowed more times than I can count. Me and the plunger are on a first-name basis."
She was equally relieved to learn she will be getting a new kitchen floor. Every time she sweeps the old floor, bits of linoleum flake off, exposing ever larger expanses of wood underneath. The uneven surface once caused her 4-year-old son to trip and hit his head.
The Mayberrys' ramshackle home, hard against Cookeville Highway, stands in stark contrast to the stately house inhabited by Mr. Gore, which stands atop a sweeping hill and is surrounded by a high-voltage fence. The only glimpse the Mayberrys catch of the Gores is when the second family arrives by helicopter, sometimes landing in a yard between the two houses.
When Mr. Gore called Mrs. Mayberry on Saturday, he invited her to dinner at his house later this month and invited himself to dinner at the Mayberry home as soon as the renovation is complete. Mr. Gore, a gun-control advocate, will have a chance to see the seven shotguns and pistols the Mayberrys keep in a glass cabinet in their living room, next to the picture window that looks out at the Gore house.
When the vice president learned that Mrs. Mayberry had received a call Monday from a man who claimed to be Mr. Gore, he arranged for a friend to drop by the house and let her know that she would soon receive a password the vice president will use whenever he calls.
Mrs. Mayberry has received plenty of other calls since the story broke over the weekend. One man accused her of helping Mr. Gore look good by providing him with a chance to fix her house.
"I've been offered homes if I moved to New York City. I've been offered a Republican attorney to sue Al Gore for $10 million," said the longtime Democrat. "But I don't want his money. I don't want new homes. I don't want to relocate to New York."
Mrs. Mayberry said all she ever wanted was a decent home for her family. She said she still believes what she was told by her property managers when she first received the eviction notice that Mr. Gore wanted the Mayberrys out of the house to make room for the Secret Service.
Strategically situated between the roadway and the Gore house, the Mayberry home would provide an ideal perch for a beefed-up security force if Mr. Gore is elected president.
A Gore spokesman said he was unaware of any plan for the Secret Service to take over the house.

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