The midterms are over and the presidential campaign is just getting started.
But in the race to become the host for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, local organizers from three cities are now in the final sprint.
Milwaukee, Miami Beach and Houston will each enter into negotiations this month with a Democratic site selection committee.
The committee’s first stop will be Monday in Milwaukee.
The winning city will be announced early next year and the convention will be held July 13-16, 2020.
Everything about a modern convention is supersized, from the venues to the parties to the number of visitors that have to be housed.
To even enter this chase, cities have to show they have at least 15,000 hotel rooms within a 20-minute drive of the main convention area, access to sites and venues to accommodate the event, and a plan for transportation and security.
A Democratic wish list, subject to negotiations, includes a large headquarters hotel with a well-financed host committee that has money in the bank and access to millions of dollars more in credit.
The local committee is responsible for raising the cash to hold the convention, probably around $70 million for Milwaukee. A federal grant is provided to pay for a vast security network that envelops the host city during the convention.
For the cities, the payoff is worldwide exposure and up to $200 million in economic benefits as tens of thousands of people congregate for the event.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said his goal was always to have “enviable dilemmas” in choosing a site.
“Milwaukee, Houston and Miami Beach have all put their best foot forward,” he said. “I’ve said this to all three of them publicly, we wouldn’t be continuing this dialogue if we deemed that a city didn’t present a viable proposal. And all three cities have.”
Here’s a look at the three finalists.
The bid: Led by Bucks executive vice president Alex Lasry, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, Milwaukee is looking to host its first major party political convention. They’re pitching Milwaukee to Democrats as modern, modest and Midwestern, a diverse city whose time has come to strut on the national stage.
Fiserv Forum is the centerpiece, providing a state-of-the-art venue for the made-for-TV extravaganza. There’s ample space around the arena for media and security, lots of hotel rooms within walking distance to the arena, and thousands more within that 20-minute drive.
The pros: For once, the weather is on Milwaukee’s side. Summer is a delight. A compact convention in the downtown also sells. The backdrop is perfect, a striving city with blue-collar roots on the shores of Lake Michigan.
The cons: If Democrats are looking for big-city glitz, they’ll probably head elsewhere. The host committee has done a good job making the case that there are enough hotel rooms in the area but they’ll have to fight that battle through the negotiations.
The politics: Hillary Clinton didn’t campaign in Wisconsin during the 2016 general election and paid the price as President Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984. A Milwaukee convention would show that Democrats are serious about re-erecting a blue wall in the Midwest.
The bid: Looking to put on its first national political convention since 1972 when Democrats and Republicans came to the area, the regional bid involves Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County and Miami.
It sounds like there will be plenty of glitz and glamour, or as the Miami Herald put it: “Speeches at AmericanAirlines Arena, meetings in the Miami Beach Convention Center, fundraisers at Vizcaya Gardens, parties at the zoo, and delegates sleeping on cruise ships …”
The pros: A tourist mecca, the Miami area is accustomed to hosting millions of people annually and staging large conventions and major events like the Super Bowl. There’s no shortage of luxury hotels.
The cons: The weather. July is in hurricane season. It’s hot and sticky. The bid is spread out with some of the hotels on Miami Beach while the main arena is downtown. And all that glitter may be too much for Democrats looking to appeal to middle America.
The politics: Hey, it’s Florida, of course you have to compete here. The state that broke Democratic hearts in 2000 (remember the chads?) swung decisively to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then fit nicely into Trump’s win column in 2016. A Miami convention will get Democrats organized for the fall campaign.
The bid: Democrats came here in 1928, Republicans in 1992 and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has vowed “we are the right city and this is the right time to bring the convention to Houston.”
Houston’s convention infrastructure is second to none. It boasts the modern Toyota Center as the main site, along with the nearby George R. Brown Convention Center. There are around 24,000 hotel rooms within 14 miles of the convention area.
The pros: Everything in Texas IS bigger. Houston has two international airports, an expanded convention center, more than enough hotel rooms and a track record of hosting big events, including the 2016 NCAA Final Four and the 2017 Super Bowl.
The cons: The weather. July is in hurricane season. It’s hot and sticky (does this sound familiar?). And there’s traffic, lots and lots of traffic.
The politics: President Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to win a presidential race in Texas back in 1976. This year, Democrat Beto O’Rourke fought a spirited race but still fell short against Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. It still may be too soon for Democrats to make a presidential play here but a convention push would be a nice start.
Senior Vice President for the Milwaukee Bucks Alex Lasry explains how the city’s bid for the Democratic National Convention made it a finalist.
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