Watch out Philadelphia, the Party’s coming to town. The Democratic Party that is.
The country’s top Democratic politicos have settled on Philadelphia to host the 2016 Democratic Convention, bringing tourist dollars, booze-addled delegates and backroom cigar smoke to town.
With no local candidate and a lot lower prices, Philly clearly had an edge on rival contenders New York, Hillary Clinton’s adopted hometown or the flat farmlands of Columbus, Ohio.
Philadelphia will host the 2016 Democratic National Convention the week of July 25, 2016, announced DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Thursday. That’s the first timne Philly has hosted the party since 1948.
“Philadelphia will put our party’s values of inclusion, equality, and opportunity on display,” Schultz said on a conference call which included Mayor Michael Nutter and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, the state’s unofficial booster-in-chief.
Philadelphia beat out New York City and Columbus, Ohio based on logistics, security, and resources, Wasserman said.
Philadelphia had powerful allies in attracting the convention which promises nearly a week of political pageantry, even if a nominee is likely to emerge from the primaries weeks ahead of the convention.
Hardball host Chris Matthews, a Philly native wrote in the Washington Post that America’s first capital was the natural choice for the convention.
“By gathering in iconic Philadelphia, Democrats could lay claim to not just the flag but what it stands for. A week there, sparkling with American values, could produce the kind of inspiring national convention we’ve missed in recent years,” Matthews wrote earlier this month.
Money also matters.
Rendell said the hosting committee he sits on, Philadelphia 2016, promised to raise $84 million for the convention.
“We’re confident we can raise that,” Rendell said. “In fact, we were going to try to get a little cushion in case there are contingencies.”
The committee started with $17 million; $5 million was placed into an escrow account and $12 million came from pledges.
And that was before Gov. Tom Wolf, the newly elected Democrat, said he would match what Gov. Tom Ridge donated to the 2000 Republican National Convention, the last convention held in Philadelphia.
“We put our heart and soul into this,” said Nutter, who passed on making a bid for the 2012 DNC to fully prepare for 2016. Nutter mentioned the creation of XFINITY Live and the expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center as sweetening the offer.
The DNC will take place only 10 months after Pope Francis visits Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.
Meryl Levitz, President and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, said the city’s tourism officials are working on how to redeploy staff to accommodate both hugely attended events.
“In 2000, we were the first convention to have an internet alley,” Levitz said. “About 15,000 of our 45,000 visitors were media. So in 2016, we expect to have the first hugely expanded social media center.”
SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey was involved in the pitch process, presenting transportation plans to Schultz and her team last August.
“We’ll do whatever is necessary,” said Casey, stating that hundreds of volunteers will be stationed on the streets, directing guests to transit and restaurants. SEPTA’s subway service will be extensive on the Broad Street Line and its video surveillance will be constantly monitored.
No sour grapes across the aisle. Joseph DeFelice, executive director of the Philadelphia Republican Party, said a convention of this magnitude is always good for the city.
“Maybe Democrats realize that Pennsylvania is going to be in play this election,” DeFelice said. “Maybe they’re nervous they’re not going to get those electoral votes in 2016.”
“It feels good to beat New York,” Hardball’s Matthews told reporters.
“You got to have a dramatic convention–It has to hit certain themes,” Matthews said. “If you’re smart, themes that appeal to the middle like American history and the pursuit of happiness. And for those, Philly is your address.”