Gore the "slumlord"

The vice president's Tennessee tenant demands repairs while campaign staffers try to fix his image. Gore gets tough with Canada and Lazio stumbles on the trail.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published June 5, 2000 7:07PM (EDT)

As Al Gore fights to get into the White House, he has gotten into some unexpected trouble closer to his Tennessee home. The Times of London reports that Tracy Mayberry, a tenant on Gore's Nashville area farm, called the vice president a "slumlord" after her repeated repair requests resulted in an eviction notice. The four-bedroom house Mayberry shares with her disabled husband and children has crumbling walls, an infestation of spiders and faulty plumbing. "It smells like an open sewer. Just the odor alone is enough to make you sick," Mayberry said. "I cannot get Al Gore to do nothing." After her complaints were publicized through the local media and the Associated Press, Gore contacted Mayberry immediately, pleading ignorance and promising to fix the property. The vice president also offered to pay for alternative housing for Mayberry and her family in the interim. Though Mayberry accepted his apology, she is withholding judgment until the promise is met. "Before, I was really upset with him. I considered him a slumlord," she said Saturday. "Right now, my opinion varies. If he'll uphold his end of the bargain, that's OK."

Gore switches strategies ... again
The vice president's rental property run-in comes at a time when his team is honing its new post-primary approach. USA Today reports that the Gore campaign plans to reverse his drop in the polls by allowing the candidate to smile more and let others do the dirty work of bashing George W. Bush. The new bag of tricks also includes a multimillion-dollar ad campaign from the Democratic National Committee, a public makeup session -- ` la Bush-McCain -- between Gore and Bill Bradley and more attention to Rust Belt states where the race is tightening. Though they've been widely criticized for Gore's stagnation in the polls, members of his campaign staff continue to downplay the early returns, promising that increased public exposure will do their man good. Said Gore strategist Michael Whouley, "The more people get to know Al Gore, the better Al Gore does."

Does Gore blame Canada?
Putting his better-than-Bush foreign policy skills to use, Gore has targeted the rogue nation of Canada for a federal probe. The Ottawa Citizen reports that the vice president called for a U.S. Department of Commerce investigation of why Hollywood showbiz jobs are migrating to the Great White North. Gore sounded the alarm in a letter to California legislators last year. "I understand that there is widespread agreement that the rate of foreign film production, especially in Canada, has increased over the years," he wrote. "However, this is a complex issue, and we must be sure of the causes of the situation before we determine appropriate actions."

Canadian Consul General Kim Campbell has urged her fellow Candians to remain calm. "Gore understands it's not a simple 'Blame Canada' issue," she said. But Hollywood may feel differently. The Screen Actors Guild asserts that Canada has snatched 20,000 film and television jobs, representing $10 billion in lost wages for the U.S. economy. With cash like that at stake, the Department of Commerce is taking the matter very seriously. John Sigmund, the department's motion picture industry officer, declined to share information from the probe with the press. "I know things that I can't tell you," he said.

Buchanan wins in California
A push from some Perotistas in California failed to loosen Pat Buchanan's grip on the Reform Party nomination, according to the AP. "I think what you're seeing is sort of last ditch efforts by people who are unreconciled to my nomination to derail it, even if it causes damage to the party, and they've failed at every stop so far," Buchanan told reporters. At a state party convention, those Reformers opposed to the Republican refugee's social conservatism threatened to split the group if Buchanan refused to rule out a hard-right turn in his choice of running mate. But even party members unsure about Buchanan's ideas couldn't bear the idea of an ugly divorce. "I will not dissolve this party on a whim because we are in the middle of a bit of turmoil," said Valli Sharbe-Geisler of San Jose. "We disaffiliate, [then] we create a vacuum. Fools rush in where a vacuum appears."

Lazio leaves them yawning
Rick Lazio's pretty face may not be enough to overpower Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to Michelle Cottle. Writing for the New Republic, Cottle reports that Lazio is underwhelming crowds everywhere he goes. Though she acknowledges Lazio's positive points ("He's good-looking, energetic, articulate, likable, and moderate"), Cottle doubts he has the star power to beat a national figure like Clinton. In fact, the attention Lazio draws as the first lady's foe may be his downfall. "His opponent is Goliath in a pantsuit, his supporters are nationally known heavyweights, his media adviser is a media star and he's trailed by a pack of journalists the size of East Islip," Cottle writes. "In short, Lazio is perennially in danger of being upstaged by his supporting cast."

Among those eager scene stealers are Lazio strategist and former John McCain main man Mike Murphy, Lazio's political papa, Gov. George Pataki, and even his disgraced but fascinating predecessor, Rudy Giuliani. Cottle finds that, with these spotlight hogs surrounding him, Lazio seems to disappear from the center of his own race, even at its most dramatic moments. Cottle describes Lazio's departure for his campaign kickoff, in the McCain-inspired "Mainstream Express," as falling flat: "The golden motor coach glittered as it pulled away into the sunset, but Rick Lazio, waving from one of its open windows, just grew harder and harder to see."

Poll positions

Presidential race:
Bush 42 to Gore 41 (Zogby May 29-31).
Bush 49 to Gore 39 (Fox May 24-25).
Bush 47 to Gore 39 (CBS News/New York Times May 10-13).
Bush 49 to Gore 44 (ABC News/Washington Post May 7-10).
Bush 51 to Gore 43 (Los Angeles Times May 4-7).
Bush 46 to Gore 45 (Pew Center May 2-6).
Bush 48 to Gore 42 (Voter.com May 1-3).
Bush 46 to Gore 41 (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1).
Bush 49 to Gore 44 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today April 28-30).

Vice presidential preferences (previous):
Preferences for Republican vice presidential candidate among Republican voters (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1):

  • Colin Powell, 39 percent
  • Elizabeth Dole, 19 percent
  • John McCain, 18 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 5 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 6 percent
  • John Kaisch, 4 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • Other, 1 percent
  • Not sure, 5 percent

    Preferences for Democratic vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • Bill Bradley, 27 percent
  • Dianne Feinstein, 10 percent
  • Bob Kerrey, 6 percent
  • Bob Graham, 5 percent
  • John Kerry, 4 percent
  • Bill Richardson, 4 percent
  • Evan Bayh, 3 percent
  • Other, 6 percent
  • Not sure, 35 percent

    Sound off
    E-mail Trail Mix with your comments, suggestions and tips at alicia@salon.com.

  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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