Edwards Takes Heat Over Lavish Estate

By MIKE BAKER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 7, 2007; 2:57 PM

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Two homes, two images, one candidate.

Democrat John Edwards, who has made an anti-poverty message the theme of his 2008 presidential campaign, is taking heat for the lavish home he has constructed in Orange County, N.C.

In December, Edwards chose the modest backyard of a New Orleans woman who had lost her home to Hurricane Katrina as the image that best underscored his campaign theme.

Now voters are seeing another, sharply contrasting image of Edwards: his own home.

Sitting on 102 secluded acres _ surrounded by trees and defended by no-trespassing signs _ the 28,000-square-foot estate that Edwards and his family call home has presidential privacy.

A main home has five bedrooms and six-and-a-half baths. It's connected by a covered walkway to a bright red addition known as "The Barn," that includes its own living facilities along with a handball court, an indoor pool and an indoor basketball court with a stage at one end. Nearby, the family has cleared space for a soccer field.

With a current building value of $4.3 million, the unfinished Edwards estate is already about $1 million more expensive than any other house in the county, according to tax records. It sits on land worth about $1.1 million.

Edwards first purchased the land in 2004, during his failed run as vice president. He recently sold his mansion in Washington's tony Georgetown neighborhood for $5.2 million.

Edwards, a former trial lawyer who made millions before winning a seat in the Senate representing North Carolina, has faced criticism regarding the estate. It also has become the subject of late-night jokes.

"Well, I think we know which America he's living in," Jay Leno quipped on NBC's "Tonight Show," a riff of Edwards' frequent mention of the "two Americas" _ one for the wealthy and one for the poor.

Monty Johnson, a neighbor whose property sits directly across from the Edwards tract, recently posted a "Go Rudy Giuliani 2008" sign just 100 feet from Edwards' driveway.

"The home is a monster. It's way over the top," Johnson said. "There's no way that a normal family could ever need a house like that. It's only going to hurt him. I don't think he's going to be able to sell his story that he's for the poor people."


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