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Maine Family Latest To Host Gore

September 13, 2000

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) _ It wasn’t exactly the presidential suite.

The small room’s furnishings consisted of a foldout couch. The decorations included posters of pop heartthrobs ’N Sync (10, to be exact), Beanie Babies and pictures of puppies and kittens. There also was a computer and a 13-inch TV.

Don Jalbert’s house, specifically his 12-year-old daughter’s study, was the latest stop as Democratic nominee Al Gore continued his tradition of bedding down at the homes of teachers to learn more about education issues before the November presidential election.

Gore arrived after midnight and chatted in the living room until 2:15 a.m. Wednesday with Marissa, her 15-year-old brother Nathan, and her parents, Don Jalbert and Susan Iadevaia-Jalbert. Gore slept less than four hours before getting up for a breakfast of home-cooked cherry scones Wednesday.

Then he and the Jalberts left around 6 a.m. for his campaign appearance at Lewiston High School.

The family bought new bath towels and stocked up on Diet Coke but tried not to go overboard as they prepared for their guest, who turned down an offer of the parents’ master bedroom in favor of Marissa’s study.

The Gore campaign, which has won the endorsements of the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions, has dubbed such visits ``School Days.″ Gore stays with a family before heading to school the following morning.

Beforehand, Don Jalbert said he wanted to ask the vice president about ways to curb expected high heating oil prices this winter and about Medicare and prescription drugs.

Perhaps most important, the father wanted to talk about the cost of putting Nathan through college to become an engineer, which he said could run $35,000 per year.

That’s a tough prospect since Jalbert’s job as an instructor at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center and his wife’s jobs as a teaching assistant and social worker put the family squarely in the middle-income bracket.

``It’s so hard. You’re living day to day. There’s always something that chews up the money that would have been going to that saving account,″ he said.

Access to higher education is one of the themes that Gore plans to address Wednesday during a visit to Lewiston High School and the Lewiston Regional Technical Center, said campaign spokeswoman Mara Gavin.

Despite hard questions, Gore won’t find hostile hosts in Lewiston, a Democratic stronghold in what’s considered a swing state. The Jalberts are registered Democrats and plan to vote for Gore in November.

Jalbert, a national adviser and state director of SkillsUSA-VICA, a leadership club comprised of vocational and technical students, learned Saturday night that his family would play host.

The next day, 15 Secret Service agents arrived to look over the house.

A gasoline container and chemicals for the family’s swimming pool were moved from a shed to a spot farther away. A mobile command post was set up near the back yard, and two phone lines were to be installed in Gore’s room.

Also, the family was told to secure its cat _ Garfield _ so it would not become a snack for bomb-sniffing dogs.

For all the inconvenience, the family joined a select group able to say, ``Al Gore slept here.″ It was the seventh such visit during Gore’s campaign.

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