Sunday, November 19, 2006

Dean: Money is Denver's biggest obstacle

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Last month I noted that Mayor Bloomberg was very concerned about New York's ability to raise enough money to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Well, DNC Chairman Howard Dean has the same concerns about Denver, as Denver Post reporter George Merritt writes in another excellent article:

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean is touting Western political victories, but that alone will not land Denver the 2008 party convention. Fundraising remains the primary concern for the man who alone will decide whether Democrats nominate their next presidential candidate in Denver or New York City, a Denver official said.

Debbie Willhite, executive director of Denver's host committee, met with Dean in Jackson Hole this weekend during a gathering of the Association of State Democratic Chairs to talk about the decision Dean is expected to make before the end of the year. Willhite said the November elections could hardly have gone better for Denver's bid, but she said the city will need more money quickly to win the convention.

"The chairman was very straightforward," Willhite said. "He made it clear that his biggest fear as far as our ability to host the convention, is that we can't raise the money." Dean was "extremely enthusiastic" over Democratic successes in Colorado, such as Bill Ritter's victory in the race for governor, Willhite said. But the bottom line is that national Democrats do not want the distraction of raising money for a convention during the 2008 presidential campaign.

"I think in his heart of hearts, (Dean) wants to have the convention in Denver," Willhite said. "But heart of hearts don't pay the bills." That said, Willhite added she is confident the Denver host committee can raise the kind of money needed to put the Democrats at ease.

Denver officials have said for months that it would take more than $70 million to host the Democratic National Convention, with a significant portion of that coming from the federal government to pay for security.

Just how much money Denver or New York has at its disposal is a guarded secret as the cities negotiate the details of their offers. Denver has a "significant amount" of financial commitments already but will need additional pledges of $4 million to $6 million, Willhite said.

That may mean a push not only on Colorado donors, but also a renewed push among other states in the region.

I think it's fascinating that Willhite went public with the money issue, just like Bloomberg did last month. And, again, I think the reasons are the same - to put pressure on the money people, telling them, hey, if you don't come up with more money, we're going to lose this thing.

But there is good news for Denver in this article. First, obviously, the sense that Dean is leaning towards Denver, although that's actually been the sense for quite a while. But secondly, there was no mention of labor issues being an issue at this point. Now that doesn't mean that labor concerns don't exist anymore, but they may not be the overriding concern they once were.