Convention impact could trickle-down to Springs

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After the surprising success of Democratic candidates in the Mountain West, there is renewed speculation that Denver will host the Democratic National Convention on August 25-28, 2008.
As nationally syndicated columnist George Will wrote just before the election:
“Four years ago, all eight Mountain West states — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — had Republican governors. If Bill Ritter wins Colorado’s governorship, Democrats will hold five of eight governorships in the Mountain West, which in the 1990s was even more reliably Republican than the South. In 2004, a change of a total of 63,508 votes in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico would have given those states’ 19 electoral votes and the presidency to John Kerry. No wonder the Democrats’ 2008 convention will probably be in Denver.”
If Denver is chosen, the economic impact will be considerable. The convention is expected to draw about 35,000 guests to the region, including delegates, politicians and an influx of media and political enthusiasts from around the nation. And according to Denver’s convention Web site, “In 2004, Boston saw an economic benefit to the tune of $163.2 million and it is estimated that Denver would reap $150-$200 million in economic benefits.”
Would the Pikes Peak Region benefit as well?
The Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp.’s Mike Kazmierski said his organization hasn’t been involved with the convention bid.
“It’s a couple of years away, and it’s a Denver deal — we don’t think that any (convention-goers) are going to be driving back and forth between Colorado Springs and Denver.”
Nevertheless, Kazmierski said that the event could help the Springs.
“It’ll showcase the entire region,” he said. And, with as many as 18,000 media representatives in attendance, some attention might spill over to Colorado Springs.
Moreover, the quadrennial party conventions, like the Super Bowl, create one-week economic tsunamis which can benefit companies throughout the state.
Newly re-elected Democratic state Rep. Michael Merrifield is optimistic about the possible local economic impact of the convention.
“I’d expect a lot (of impact), in spite of our reputation as a Republican stronghold,” he said. “We’re a beautiful city, with great outdoor activities. If it goes our way, as soon as the decision is announced, I think the chamber needs get to work and figure out how we can benefit.”
At Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak, the convention and visitor’s bureau, Terry Sullivan was delighted at the prospect of a Denver convention.
“The media equivalency for Colorado is worth $10 million — it’ll put Colorado at the forefront (as a visitor destination) not just for natural beauty, but as a meeting state.”
Sullivan believes that the direct impact will be huge, as well.
“There will be lots of pre- and post-convention activities, and we’ll see a tremendous inflow during the convention — people coming here to visit, eat at restaurants, play golf,” he said. “It’ll be great value for us.”
Denver and New York City are the two finalists. The decision rests with Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Dean must decide by the end of the year, but many observers believe that the verdict will be announced next weekend at the meeting of the Association of State Democratic Chairs in Jackson Hole, Wyo., or at the DNC meeting in Washington on Dec. 3.
The Democratic convention was last held in Denver 100 years ago, and populist William Jennings Bryan was nominated for president. Best know for his “Cross of Gold” speech, which he had delivered at a previous convention, Bryan lost the general election to William Howard Taft.
Many Democrats believe that holding the convention in Denver, rather than New York City, would help re-brand the party.
“Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West are rapidly trending blue,” said Denver Rep. Diana Degette. “The Democratic Party must seize the opportunity and take advantage of the changed political landscape of the West and take back the White House in 2008.”
Denver’s bid has also been endorsed by soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and scores of other prominent Democrats.
But Dean is non-committal. While agreeing that selecting Denver might send a “good message,” Dean stresses that “You’ve got to have a successful convention — so the nitty-gritty raising money, transportation, hotels becomes more important than any political message you might get out of it.”
John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com