City lead­ers con­fi­dent about con­ven­tion

Miami Herald - - LOCAL & STATE - BY JOEY FLECHAS AND KYRA GUR­NEY [email protected]­ami­her­ kgur­[email protected]­ami­her­

Mi­ami com­mis­sion­ers have sent a mes­sage up to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee in Wash­ing­ton: We’re ready to make a deal.

On Thursday, com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously gave the city ad­min­is­tra­tion per­mis­sion to work out an agree­ment for the city to host the 2020 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion. The res­o­lu­tion pre­emp­tively gives Mi­ami’s ad­min­is­tra­tors the bless­ing to get to work right away — if Mi­ami is cho­sen. Mi­ami Beach com­mis­sion­ers passed a sim­i­lar res­o­lu­tion last year.

Mi­ami-Dade has bid to host the 2020 con­ven­tion, sched­uled for July 13-16, in a joint effort by the county, Mi­ami and Mi­ami Beach. The Beach has taken the lead on Mi­ami-Dade’s bid, which is cur­rently in the fi­nal stages. The de­ci­sion is ex­pected early this year.

Beach Mayor Dan Gel­ber ad­dressed Mi­ami com­mis­sion­ers be­fore Thursday’s vote, say­ing the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee is cur­rently in ne­go­ti­a­tions with all three cities vy­ing for the con­ven­tion. Mi­ami is com­pet­ing with Mil­wau­kee and Hous­ton. The com­mit­tee will hash out pre­lim­i­nary de­tails with the three as a sort of au­di­tion be­fore mak­ing the fi­nal call.

Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tom Perez has said all three are se­ri­ous con­tenders. Mi­ami po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are con­fi­dent about their chances.

“It’s ob­vi­ous to us that Mi­ami is the best choice, so we’ll be ready for them,” said Mi­ami Com­mis­sioner Ken Rus­sell.

Mayor Fran­cis Suarez said he be­lieves the res­o­lu­tion is not only a use­ful step but a clear sig­nal to D.C. that Mi­ami is ready.

“That’s a huge mes­sage,” he said. “That’s a way to get out front.”

Florida is a cru­cial player in na­tional pol­i­tics, a pop­u­lous swing state with 27 elec­toral votes, and there­fore gets se­ri­ous at­ten­tion from pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. Gel­ber said South Florida’s melt­ing pot mir­rors an in­creas­ingly di­verse pop­u­la­tion across the coun­try — an apt back­drop, in his opin­ion, for the Democrats to name their pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

“I think we re­ally em­body the mosaic of our coun­try go­ing for­ward,” he said.

Perez re­cently vis­ited dur­ing Art Basel, when he toured Mi­ami and the Beach dur­ing one of the busi­est large-scale events of the year. A host com­mit­tee took Perez to the newly ren­o­vated Mi­ami Beach Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, where cau­cus meet­ings would be held dur­ing the day, and Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena in down­town Mi­ami, where or­ga­niz­ers have pro­posed hold­ing speeches and voting to select the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee. Perez was also treated to lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab and a pri­vate din­ner at the home of Paul Ce­jas, a noted Demo­cratic fundraiser and for­mer U.S. ambassador to Bel­gium un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

Rep. Donna Sha­lala, the newly elected Demo­crat who rep­re­sents Mi­ami Beach in Wash­ing­ton, said she’s been push­ing Perez hard on the con­ven­tion.

“I know Tom Perez very well. He worked for me for four years,” Sha­lala said. “I sat right next to him at the pri­vate din­ner we had and I leaned heav­ily on him.”

Sha­lala, a for­mer head of the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary un­der Bill Clin­ton, knows many of the Demo­cratic Party’s de­ci­sion-mak­ers well.

Perez’s De­cem­ber visit was part of a sec­ond round of trips to the bid­ding cities. The se­lec­tion com­mit­tee also toured the three cities in the fall to eval­u­ate venues and lo­gis­tics.

The chair­man has pre­vi­ously praised Mi­ami’s his­tory for host­ing large events, such as mul­ti­ple Su­per Bowls, and he’s ad­dressed con­cerns that could hurt Mi­ami’s chances. The July 2020 con­ven­tion would be held dur­ing the early part of hur­ri­cane sea­son. Perez said he has con­sid­ered the threat of a storm, but he’s looked at data that shows hur­ri­canes that threaten South Florida tend to oc­cur later in the year.

Mi­ami-Dade Mayor Car­los Gimenez sent Mi­ami a let­ter of sup­port this week, echo­ing the con­fi­dence that Mi­ami is best suited for the con­ven­tion be­cause of the area’s track record with tourism.

“Mi­ami-Dade County is the per­fect place for the 2020 DNC for any num­ber of rea­sons, but pri­mar­ily be­cause of our di­ver­sity and ex­pe­ri­ence in suc­cess­fully host­ing large, prom­i­nent events,” Gimenez wrote.

With the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee steeped in ne­go­ti­a­tions with the three cities and a de­ci­sion im­mi­nent, Thursday was a chance for lo­cal politi­cians to show their en­thu­si­asm for their bid — even those on the other side of the aisle. Both Repub­li­cans, Gimenez and Suarez en­dorse the con­ven­tion bid and see it as an eco­nomic boon for Mi­ami-Dade.

“Host­ing in 2020 a Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion will cre­ate more jobs, will de­liver more rev­enue and will show­case our city as more than just a tourist des­ti­na­tion, but a cen­ter for in­no­va­tion, fi­nance and en­trepreneur­ship,” Suarez said.

Mi­ami Her­ald staff writer Alex Daugh­erty con­trib­uted to this re­port from Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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