Been there, done that, is message to RNC site selection committee

Legalized marijuana and Colorado’s pivotal swing-state status won’t be factors when the Republican National Committee designates the host city for its 2016 national convention, leading Republicans said during a three-day visit by the GOP’s site-selection committee this week. Instead, the 13-member body plans to make its recommendation based on venues, proximity of hotel rooms, transportation and security capabilities, said the group’s chairwoman.

“We’re looking at the logistics of hosting a convention,” said Enid Mikelsen, who heads the site-selection committee, on Tuesday after national Republicans toured the Pepsi Center. “We don’t exclude anybody on the basis of any kind of policy decision they’ve made for their state or what kind of activities go on there, or what time zone. Those aren’t the things we’re concerned about.”

Although sunny skies and a fantastic view aren’t official criteria, she noted that Denver scores well on those counts.

The Denver host committee plans to pitch its proposal to land the 2016 Republican National Convention at a business meeting, says host committee chairman Pete Coors during a press conference with state GOP chairman Ryan Call at Denver International Airport on June 9. The site-selection committee arrived Monday and spent the next 48 hours touring venues and examining whether Denver, one of four finalist cities, meets its criteria to host the GOP’s next national convention.

“You don’t have to sell me on the West,” she said with a smile. “I’m from Utah, so I know all of those wonderful advantages, whether it’s the weather, whether it’s the air, whether it’s the slightly different approach to life.” She added, “A number of people flew out from Washington yesterday and they can’t stop looking at the mountains.”

“Welcome RNC site selection committee,” reads a sign over Peña Boulevard on June 9, as many of those charged with deciding where to hold the 2016 Republican National Convention arrived at Denver International Airport. Denver is one of four finalists for the RNC.

“I’m not a big fan of the law,” a smiling Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus told reporters about the move to legalize marijuana, but the situation hasn’t played a role in the RNC’s decision, he said.

The enormous Pepsi Center monitors display the logo of the Denver 2016 host committee shortly before the RNC site-selection committee wraps up a tour of the venue on June 10.

“This is a business decision based on facilities, hotels, transportation and money,” Priebus said. “I don’t even really take into consideration a swing state, red state, blue state, purple state,” he said and pointed out that there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between states where a party names its nominee and which states it carries in the fall election. (In 2012, both parties’ presidential candidates lost the swing states where they held their conventions.)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock talks to the press alongside RNC host committee chairman Pete Coors, site-selection committee chairwoman Enid Mikelsen and national GOP chairman Reince Priebus at the Pepsi Center on June 10 in Denver. “We believe that Denver is a city that could immediately pull the trigger and successfully host the RNC,” Hancock says.

Denver is one of four finalists to host the 2016 RNC — the others are Cleveland, Kansas City, Mo., and Dallas — and GOP officials plan to make a decision later this summer. The site-selection committee visited Cleveland and Kansas City last week and traveled on Wednesday from Denver to Dallas, cities insiders say are the two top contenders.

“It is a credit to your community that you had such a positive experience in 2008 that so many of your community leaders are willing to do it again,” says 2016 Republican National Convention site-selection committee head Enid Mikelsen during the group’s visit to Denver on June 10. Denver is one of four finalists to host the GOP’s nominating convention in two years and its experience hosting the Democrats’ convention six years ago is a plus, national Republicans said.

Fresh from a walk-through of the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, Priebus said the committee was looking at everything from “electricity loads to sound abatement,” critical behind-the-scenes factors.

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call urges national Republicans to “Go West” for the 2016 Republican National Convention as the site-selection committee arrives at Denver International Airport on June 9. Denver host committee chairman Pete Coors, standing behind Call, also spoke to the press and said he believes Denver’s bid is the strongest among the four finalist cities.

“The things that we talk about walking around these buildings would probably bore you to tears, but they’re the important things we need to talk about,” he said.

RNC site-selection committee chairwoman Enid Mikelsen steps off the group’s tour bus at the Pepsi Center before kicking the tires on the venue on June 10 in Denver. The Denver host committee’s “Go West!” banner makes the pitch to select Denver from among the four finalists for the national convention.

If Denver wins the convention, it could play a pivotal role in the third presidential election running — the city was where Democrats nominated Barack Obama in 2008 and where Obama faced off against Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate of 2012.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock raises a glass to toast the RNC’s site selection committee at a private party in Denver on the evening of June 10. Host committee chair Pete Coors also joined in the tribute.
Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Though Mikelsen cautioned against reading any tea leaves over the direction of the party based on which site her committee ultimately selects, backers of the Denver bid note the poetic symmetry of the GOP nominating a potential successor to Obama in the same city where he launched the fall campaign that won him the White House.

“We believe that Denver is a city that could immediately pull the trigger and successfully host the RNC,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who joined the Republicans for the Pepsi Center tour and the press conference at center court on Tuesday.

In addition to having “the best weather of any of the remaining cities at that time of year,” he said with a broad smile, Denver has experience operating events like the RNC, which could draw 50,000 visitors to town amid tremendous security.

“We won’t lock this city down but will encourage the residents of this region to come down and enjoy the delegates and their families just as we did in 2008 and make this a family affair in hosting our distinguished guests to this city,” Hancock said.

Denver, he added, was ready to “activate the blueprint” for a massive undertaking, and could draw on law enforcement personnel from around the region rather than having to import security from out of state.

“Not every city that has hosted a national convention is excited about hosting it again,” Mikelsen said. “It is a credit to your community that you had such a positive experience in 2008 that so many of your community leaders are willing to do it again.”

The other cities have been national Republican convention hosts in years past — Cleveland in 1924 and 1936, Kansas City in 1928 and 1976, and Dallas in 1984 — but Denver’s experience as a host city in the post-9/11 era sets it apart, Priebus said.

“You’ve also got bipartisan support here — that’s really important,” he said, noting that Hancock, a Democrat, was going above-and-beyond by making fundraising calls for an event that would showcase the opposition party.

The Democratic National Committee said last week that six cities have submitted bids to serve as host for its 2016 bid — Birmingham, Ala.; Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; New York, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

Except for the tour of the Pepsi Center and a lunchtime look at Coors Field, the Denver host committee kept quiet about the itinerary, in contrast to widely publicized events in Kansas City that left visiting Republicans praising the town’s enthusiasm.

The committee is considering June 26 or July 25 as potential start dates, both more than a month earlier than recent conventions, which have left too little time to race to the finish, Republicans have said. (Because of potential late spring play-off possibilities by teams housed at the Pepsi Center, a Denver convention would have to go with the July date.)

Priebus said the RNC might narrow its choice to two cities before engaging in more nitty-gritty, potentially expensive contract negotiations.

“If it gets down to two cities, we’re going to duke it out in the best possible way,” said Denver host committee chief Pete Coors, who also appeared at the press conference on Tuesday at the Pepsi Center.

The only celebrity to woo the site selection committee, Coors said with a grin, would be Thunder, the four-hooved mascot of the Denver Broncos.

“Razzle-dazzle isn’t part of our agenda,” Coors said, dismissing comparisons with the fireworks that greeted Republicans in Kansas City.

The Denver host committee has raised $11 million, Coors said at a press conference on Monday at Denver International Airport, months ahead of its original schedule and more than half way to a $20 million goal. If selected, the host convention city will likely have to come up with $60 million.

“I don’t think there’s any question here about facilities and capabilities, so we’re getting a feel for the people, getting a feel for the committee,” Priebus said, noting that he’d been getting “positive, pro-Denver texts” from his wife all morning.


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