Sweet: Chicago won’t bid for 2016 political conventions

Written By By LYNN SWEET Washington Bureau Chief Posted: 02/27/2014, 09:22am

WASHINGTON — Chicago is not bidding for either the Republican or Democratic 2016 national conventions. Mayor Rahm Emanuel was asked if he was interested by both parties; he is saying no thanks.

“We are not actively pursuing either one,” said Emanuel spokesman Sarah Hamilton. She told me that the only way Emanuel would have contemplated a bid was if both parties agreed in advance to have their conventions in the same city; no way that will happen in 2016.

The Republican and Democratic National Committees have started the 2016 site selection process, with the RNC a bit ahead. Cities in the 2016 convention mix are already lobbying at their respective party winter meetings held here — the RNC’s last month and the DNC’s which starts on Thursday.

Las Vegas, with its bounty of 150,000 hotel rooms — all close to its convention center — is making a big push. RNC members in D.C. for the winter meeting were very open to Las Vegas, which is playing down its legalized vices.

In the promotional materials I looked at from the Nevada 2016 Host Committee, there is not one picture of a casino or mention of gambling.

lllinois Republican Party Chairman Jack Dorgan, at the RNC meeting here, told me he had no upfront objections to Las Vegas if the city submitted a robust bid.

Republicans held their 2012 convention in Tampa. And while the Illinois delegation was booked at a very lovely Sheraton hotel — right on the water at Clearwater Beach — the place was about 30 miles from Tampa.

Other state delegations were at hotels in remote locations, a reason why Las Vegas notes in one of its convention pitch books, “Las Vegas could accommodate all the attendees from the 2012 Tampa Convention inside a one-mile radius and all within one mile of the airport.”

Wednesday was the last day for cities aiming to land the RNC convention to submit their bids; on Monday they will be presented to the full RNC site selection committee.

Democrats met in Charlotte, N.C. in 2012. The Illinois delegation had a nice hotel close to the convention center — an Obama homestate perk. But Charlotte did not have a decent supply of rooms for everyone. The distant motel we were assigned was dreadful.

On Feb. 7, DNC Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., launched the first step to determining a site, sending a letter to Emanuel and about 30 other mayors asking them to put together a bid.

“With over 35,000 delegates, honored guests, and members of the press in attendance, the Democratic National Convention can be an enormous opportunity to showcase Chicago as a world-class city,” Wasserman Schultz said in the letter to Emanuel, a copy of which was shared with me.

Chicago last hosted a convention in 1996 — where former President Bill Clinton was nominated for a second term at the United Center.

In order to make a bid, Emanuel would have to harness major local corporate support for a convention — both the RNC and DNC are looking for city host committees to raise millions of dollars to bankroll convention activities.

Emanuel has to be mindful that corporate Chicago does not suffer donor fatigue.

Emanuel has been at that well several times recently: He’s squeezed millions of dollars from Chicago area corporate leaders for the 2012 NATO Summit and for his children’s at-risk fund and most recently, he helped obtain business commitments for the successful UI Labs bid — President Barack Obama announced the $70 million federal grant on on Tuesday — for the new national Digital Lab on Goose Island.

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lynnsweet

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