Democrats pick Den­ver over New York for 2008 nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Va­lerie Richard­son

DEN­VER — Democrats on Jan. 11 an­nounced that Den­ver will host the 2008 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion, re­ward­ing the Rocky Moun­tain West for the party’s re­cent elec­toral gains de­spite prob­lems over the city’s lack­lus­ter union pres­ence.

The Mile High City beat out New York as the con­ven­tion site af­ter months of de­lays stem­ming from Den­ver’s la­bor pains, con­cerns over ho­tel rooms and fundrais­ing ques­tions.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s lack of en­thu­si­asm ul­ti­mately may have sealed the de­ci­sion, es­pe­cially when com­pared with the un­bri­dled ex­cite­ment of Den­ver’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

“We are, need­less to say, elated,” said Den­ver Mayor John W. Hick­en­looper, who vowed to make the event “the best con­ven­tion ever.”

Few Coloradans re­mem­ber the city’s last pres­i­den­tial con­ven­tion. It was in 1908, when Democrats came to Den­ver to nom­i­nate William Jen­nings Bryan, who ul­ti­mately lost to William Howard Taft.

Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Howard Dean cited the party’s strong show­ing in Novem­ber in the Rock­ies. Democrats made gains in state leg­is­la­tures and picked up the U.S. Se­nate seat in Mon­tana and the Colorado gov­er­nor’s of­fice.

The party’s suc­cess in the tra­di­tion­ally Repub­li­can re­gion fits with Mr. Dean’s 50-state strat­egy, which calls for con­test­ing Repub­li­cans in ev­ery state. Al­though Den­ver votes de­pend­ably Demo­cratic, Repub­li­cans hold the voter reg­is­tra­tion edge statewide and sided with Pres­i­dent Bush in 2004.

“This is a part of the coun­try that hasn’t been mar­keted by ei­ther party,” Mr. Dean said. “The Repub­li­cans have taken it for granted, and the Democrats have as­sumed that they can’t win.”

Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Demo­crat, lob­bied hard for Den­ver, ar­gu­ing that the Rocky Moun­tain West is piv­otal to the party’s suc­cess in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. Bring­ing the con­ven­tion to Den­ver shows that the Democrats aren’t just the party of the coasts, he said.

“It’s im­por­tant that we do this con­ven­tion in the West,” Mr. Salazar said. “Over the years, we’ve gone to New York, we’ve gone to L.A., we’ve gone to the coasts, but it’s been a long time since we’ve gone to the in­te­rior.”

The party’s last non-coastal con­ven­tion was in 1988 in At­lanta. Since most Demo­cratic con­ven­tions have been held at lib­eral-friendly sites, it re­mains to be seen whether a Colorado venue will af­fect vot­ing pat­terns, Mr. Dean said.

The 2008 con­ven­tion is sched­uled to run from Aug. 25 to 28. Most events will be held at the Pepsi Cen­ter, which be­came a bone of con­tention for one union.

The lo­cal stage­hands union threat­ened to strike dur­ing the con­ven­tion un­less the meet­ings were moved from the Pepsi Cen­ter to an­other venue. The Pepsi Cen­ter, which is owned by Wal- Mart rel­a­tive Stan Kroenke, is not a union arena.

Mr. Dean said “there is no agree­ment,” but that he was con­fi­dent the is­sue could be re­solved be­fore the con­ven­tion.

The city needs to raise $80 mil­lion to host the con­ven­tion, which is es­ti­mated to draw $160 mil­lion in tourism busi­ness. About 35,000 del­e­gates and mem­bers of the press are ex­pected to at­tend the event.

The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee an­nounced in Septem­ber that its 2008 con­ven­tion would be held in Min­neapolisSt. Paul.

AP / Ed An­drieski

Den­ver Mayor John Hick­en­looper hugs El­bra Wedge­worth, pres­i­dent of the Den­ver 2008 Con­ven­tion Host Com­mit­tee, af­ter a Jan. 11 news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing Den­ver’s win­ning bid to host the 2007 Demo­cratic Con­ven­tion.

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