No elephant convention in Denver in 2016

The Colorado Statesman

Did parading elephants and a smiling quarterback trump briefcases and flowcharts? Or are Republicans more covetous of Ohio’s 18 electoral votes than Colorado’s nine? Maybe it all came down to dollars and cents, and Denver’s lack of fundraising commitments doomed the city’s chances.

Whatever the elements of the decision, Denver won’t be the host city for the 2016 Republican National Convention, a GOP selection committee said on Wednesday when it announced that Dallas and Cleveland were the surviving finalists. Kansas City, Mo., was also eliminated from consideration.
The 13-member RNC Site Selection Committee, meeting in Washington, dashed the hopes of Colorado Republicans — and civic and state boosters from across the aisle — when it bypassed Denver and decided not to return to the city where Democrats nominated Barack Obama for president in 2008. Denver’s recent history managing a national convention — particularly in the post-9/11 atmosphere of intense security — was considered one of its selling points, in addition to a mild summer climate and ample hotel space.

Two weeks earlier, Republicans, including the GOP national chairman, Wisconsin’s Reince Priebus, spent 48 hours in Denver visiting site venues and examining the Mile High City’s attributes. Site Selection Committee Chairwoman Enid Mickelsen, a former congresswoman from neighboring Utah, praised Denver’s mountain view and crisp, dry air after touring downtown’s Pepsi Center, where the national convention would have been housed.

Mickelsen and Priebus both said that Colorado’s legalized marijuana wouldn’t be a factor in the decision one way or the other.

“We’re looking at the logistics of hosting a convention,” Mickelsen told reporters. “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.”

Instead, it was the availability of venues — Cleveland scores well on that count, promising a potential late June start for the convention, although Denver and Dallas both guaranteed that they could get things underway by mid July — and the number of hotel rooms within a close radius, as well as other more prosaic requirements for an event playing host to an estimated 50,000 people.

Priebus also told reporters that the committee could narrow its choices to two later this summer and then pit those two bids against each other in order to secure the best deal. A final decision will be made later this summer when the entire Republican National Committee votes on the choice at its August meeting, organizers said.

Early this week, news outlets reported rumors that Dallas had been selected or that Denver and Dallas had made the cut, though both whispers proved inaccurate. The selection committee met for hours on Wednesday before releasing its decision, which was first tweeted out by RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney.

“After extensive review the site selection committee has chosen Cleveland and Dallas as finalists for the 2016 convention,” Mickelsen said in a statement. “Cleveland and Dallas demonstrated their ability to host a phenomenal convention in 2016, and the RNC is excited about the prospect of hosting our convention in either of these great cities. After visiting both cities, I can say to my fellow Republicans that we should be excited for the 2016 convention. These world class cities know how to roll out the welcome mat, and more importantly they have the ability to provide our next presidential nominee a launching pad that will put a Republican in the White House in 2016.”

She praised the host committees in Denver and Kansas City for “hard work and dedication to this effort,” saying, “Both teams should be proud of their work. They were great ambassadors for their cities, and we felt fortunate to visit and get to know them. This was a tough decision for our committee because all four of these cities made excellent bids.”

Denver 2016 Host Committee Chairman Pete Coors — he took the helm in early March the same day the previous chairman, former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, announced he was running for governor — congratulated Dallas and Cleveland, and had this to say about the announcement: “While we’re thrilled to have made it this far, we are disappointed with today’s decision. Denver has the amenities, the community, the political climate and a proven track record that would have made it the perfect place to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

“We also had a wonderful and diverse coalition of business, government and civic leaders who worked tirelessly to highlight what makes Denver great, and Colorado the best state in the Union,” Coors continued in the statement. “We especially want to take a moment to thank Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Gov. John Hickenlooper and our entire host committee for going above and beyond to help our bid.”

But it was Denver’s lagging fundraising — with $11 million pledged toward an anticipated $60 million goal, Denver was far behind Dallas’ $46 million, Kansas City’s $35 million and even Cleveland’s $25 million — that sunk the city, insiders say. (The other cities each had public money pledged for their bids, something Denver organizers decided early on against using.)

Dallas was where Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan to a second term in 1984 and the GOP got behind Calvin Coolidge for his second term in Cleveland in 1928. Cleveland is also in the running for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, although selection for that site isn’t as far along as it is for the rival party.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com