Occasional Reports, Notes and Commentaries on the Road to the White House 
 By Eric M. Appleman                                                                                                                            Back Issues

DNC Meets, Narrows Convention Possibilities to 7 Cities

[Washington, DC May 9, 1998] The Democratic National Committee held its annual spring meeting Thursday through Saturday, and DNC National Chair Steve Grossman declared, "We're back." Grossman said the party, which had been hit by massive legal bills stemming from investigations into the 1996 campaign, will have the financial resources to compete in the 1998 elections. He said the party's debt had been reduced by approximately $10 million in the past seven months. Grossman announced a unity fundraising program that will allow the party to raise around $18 million for the 1998 elections.

Grossman predicted the Democrats will be able to regain control of the House, despite a historical record suggesting otherwise. In only one of the 33 mid-term elections since the Civil War has the party controlling the White House picked up seats--that was in 1934. In Senate races, however, Democrats appear resigned to making no gains; the current balance in the Senate stands at 55-45.

As is usual in these meetings, elected and appointed members of the DNC from around the country exchanged ideas, took care of business, heard from party leaders, and absorbed the party's message. One area where Democrats believe they are making headway is among women; in recent months they have bolstered their "100,000 for 2000" program which seeks to reach out to women. On Saturday, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney addressed the Democratic gathering, condemning Proposition 226, the Campaign Reform Initiative, which is on California's June ballot. Sweeney said the so-called "paycheck protection" measure is part of "a national union-bashing campaign... of unprecedented historic, diabolic and possibly hyperbolic proportions." He said that CRI singles out unions and would remove labor from the playing field completely. Sweeney warned that if CRI passes, labor contributions for the November elections would be hopelessly ensnarled.

2000 Convention
In addition to the immediate focus on 1998, Democrats are also preparing for the next election cycle. On the first day of the meeting, the Site Selection Advisory Committee met for about seven hours and reached a consensus on visiting seven cities as possible locations for the 2000 convention. Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami/Dade County, Minneapolis, New Orleans and Philadelphia made the cut. Committee chairman Joe Andrew, who is also chairman of the Indiana state party, said, "By visiting these cities our concerns get highlighted...by visiting we push the ideas and principles of the party." The committee will visit the seven cities between now and August. After the site visits, the committee will make a recommendation to the two party chairs, who will then make the final decision sometime in November. The committee ruled out Seattle because of concerns about media logistics and Charlotte because of shortcomings in lodging.

A national convention imposes many demands on a city, but it also provides a considerable public relations and economic boost. Chicago and San Diego, sites of 1996 Democratic and Republican conventions, each tallied well over $100 million in direct economic benefits.

The site selection process takes almost a year. In December 1997 the DNC issued invitations to 27 cities to submit bids. This March it sent out requests for proposals to 13 cities; nine submitted bids by the mid-April deadline. (By comparison in the lead-up to the 1996 convention, the DNC sent out RFPs to only six cities and the site committee visited just three cities).  The GOP site selection process is also well underway; on April 24 RNC chairman Jim Nicholson announced that nine cities have submitted proposals for the Republicans' 2000 convention: Charlotte, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and San Antonio.

Individual members of the site committee already have revealed some strong preferences. During the site committee meeting, they took the opportunity to praise their favored cities.

Rotan Lee of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania noted that Philadelphia had hosted the Whig convention in 1848 and the Democratic convention that nominated Harry Truman in 1948. He pointed to the city's active Democratic mayor Edward Rendell, its facilities, its location, and its great ethnic diversity. Philadelphia is, he said, a friendly city.

Rosalind Wyman of Los Angeles recalled the 1960 convention held in L.A. that nominated John Kennedy. She said the new Staples Center and the new convention center attached to it would provide a great venue. Wyman pointed to the city's diversity. She said Los Angeles has the best weather in the summer, and noted that one cannot ignore California's 54 electoral votes.

Speaking up for New Orleans, Ben Jeffers of the Louisiana Democratic Party pointed to the city's mayor, its two Democratic Senators and its Democratic vote in the last two presidential elections. "Convention facilities in New Orleans are literally second to none," he said, adding that there are over 18,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Superdome. And, he noted, "Our food is the absolute best food in the world."

In other news out of the DNC meeting, the party announced the appointment of Doug Walker as communications director. Walker moves to the post from his position as director of communications at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The Democratic party is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding. It is the oldest continually run political party in the world.