The closing of the Blue Bird bus factory in Mount Pleasant has become an issue in the campaign for Governor. Mount Pleasant happens to be Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack’s adopted hometown, and Vilsack’s Republican rival, Doug Gross, has accused Vilsack of failing to do enough to keep the plant open. Gross repeated his criticism during a televised debate this past weekend. Gross says local folks in Mount Pleasant called Vilsack and asked him to fly to Blue Bird’s corporate headquarters in Georgia, and Vilsack, according to Gross, told the hometown folks he was too busy. Gross says Iowans expect their Governor to “fight every fight,” even though they may not win every fight. After the debate, Vilsack talked extensively about his efforts to keep Blue Bird in Mount Pleasant. Vilsack calls Gross’s allegation an “absolute falsehood.” Vilsack says Blue Bird was considering an expansion in Mount Pleasant or Georgia, and the state, Henry County and the city put together a three-million dollar incentive package. Vilsack says he called the chairman of Blue Bird and asked if he should rearrange his schedule for the trip to Georgia, and Vilsack says the Blue Bird executive told him there was no reason to come because the company’s Board of Directors wasn’t going to discuss the topic.Vilsack says he told the chairman he would drop everything and fly to Georgia if he was needed.Neither Don Carmody or Dick Benedict, the two Mount Pleasant men Gross mentioned during the debate, were available by phone Sunday afternoon to tell the story in their own words. This weekend’s debate on Iowa Public Television was the third and final between the two candidates. Gross accepted but Vilsack declined an invitation to a debate jointly-sponsored by Radio Iowa and the Clear Channel stations in Iowa.
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