Siegelman ahead of pack
By By Bob Ingram
MONTGOMERY–Gov. Don Siegelman, displaying the confidence that the polls say are justified, finally kicked off his campaign for re-nomination last week with a media blitz on TV followed by a series of mini-rallies at airports in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile.
As was expected, his media campaign focused primarily on his success in luring new plants to Alabama, a record which he has every reason to be proud.
Every poll thus far shows Siegelman has a near-insurmountable lead in the Democratic Primary where he is faced by only one serious challenger, State Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bishop.
Three other hopefuls who can only be described as "run-for-the-fun-of-it" candidates are also on the ballot: Blake Harper, Gladys Riddle and Mark "Rodeo Clown" Townsend.
And before you ask, Townsend is not now nor has he ever been a rodeo clown. He said he asked that nickname be used on the ballot because it would be easy to remember.
While Siegelman is tabbed as the runaway winner by the polls on the Democratic side, the pollsters now say that Congressman Bob Riley of
Ashland is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
It is rare that the re-location of a home-grown business to another state merits mention in a statewide political column but the announcement that Blount International will move its corporate headquarters to Portland, Ore., cannot be overlooked.
The history of Blount is one of Alabama's most remarkable "rags-to-riches" stories. In 1946 the Brothers Blount–Winton M. (Red) and Houston–just home from World War II service–bought four war surplus
Caterpillar D-7 tractors and begin digging fish ponds in Bullock County.
From that humble beginning Blount Brothers became one of the premier construction companies in the world. Some of their high-profile projects included the Superdome in New Orleans and the launch pad at Cape Kennedy where the first moon shoot lifted off.
The success of the company also projected Red Blount into the political arena. He was the first Republican "facecard" in Alabama, chairing the Eisenhower presidential campaign in 1952 and 1956. Later he served as
Postmaster General in the Nixon Administration, then jumped into the arena with both feet in 1972, waging an unsuccessful campaign for the U. S. Senate.
A sidebar to that race–one of his campaign staffers was a young George Bush, now the President.
Still later Blount's son, Winton M. Blount III, followed his father into the political arena.
He chaired the Alabama Republican Party and was an unsuccessful candidate for the GOP nomination for governor in 1998.
The company founded by the elder Blount long ago left the construction business and became a diversified company specializing in industrial and power equipment. The company was sold to Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking Partners in 1999 for $1.3 billion.
There is an ironic coincidence to this story. The only other Montgomery-born business which achieved international recognition comparable to Blount was KinderCare, the largest child-care business in the world.
Several years ago it too moved its corporate headquarters to the very same city where Blount will soon be headquartered–Portland, Oregon.
Why Portland? There is a simple explanation. The equipment Blount now manufactures is used primarily in the timber industry, and Portland is in the heart of that industry; KinderCare re-located for the simple reason that the new Chairman/CEO lived in Portland and didn't want to move to Montgomery.