Monday, December 18, 2006

Denver's hired gun could be the difference

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Denver's bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention is being led by Debbie Willhite. A veteran of numerous conventions, Willhite was hired in July to lead Denver's effort, and she is hoping for a payoff soon:

Debbie Willhite knows when one of the key people trying to bring the Democratic National Convention to Denver is calling - her cell phone is programmed to play the theme song from the 1960s television cowboy drama Bonanza. As director of the committee charged with luring the Democrats to Denver in 2008, Willhite has been making the case that Colorado and the West are the Democrats' new frontier, and the music on her phone is a constant reminder of that pitch.

"It will say something different about the party to be in the new West," Willhite said.

Ironically, the woman who is leading the roundup for Denver hails from Arkansas and speaks with a Southern accent. She's built up a formidable reputation as a political consultant, with a career that spans almost three decades.

Willhite, 55, lives in Washington, D.C., but has been coming to Colorado since 1980, when she campaigned here for President Jimmy Carter. She has been closely allied with Bill Clinton, and was heavily involved in both his campaigns. Clinton put her in charge of the Denver Summit of the Eight, a meeting of the leaders of the world's most powerful countries, in 1997.

She's been in Denver since last summer, working to persuade Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean to choose Denver over rival New York City. Dean is expected to announce his decision soon.

Willhite has had a hand in every Democratic convention since 1980, and she says her fascination with conventions goes back to childhood. As a farm girl in northwestern Arkansas, she watched the political conventions on TV. "I was always fascinated by what went on behind the scenes," Willhite said. "Back then, conventions were covered gavel to gavel. I decided when I was in fourth grade I wanted to be part of managing events."
When asked if she's a hired gun, Willhite smiles. "I've never shot anybody," she said. "I think of a hired gun as somebody who rides out of town and never comes back."

Then she laughs. "I've maintained pretty good relations with people I've worked with, except those I shot," she said.

If Denver wins this thing, Willhite's work will be a major reason, and well worth whatever Denver is paying her.


Anonymous said...

Here's the ironic thing about Denver's DNC chances being held back due to Labor issues:

* Labor would have the ability to strengthen its position in the West with a Denver DNC. Labor has less to gain in New York, as does the DNC.

I can't help but assume this is political maneuvering to boost Labor's Denver presence and for the DNC to get a greater financial committment,...BECAUSE if Denver loses, not only will that send a message that the Dems are the same old party (**see below), one that has had a hard time winning (excluding the "fed up with the GOP" votes), but it will take away Labor's opportunity to grow its position in the West. So, I have to assume, that is what they are trying to do with this latest stand. Let's just hope it does not hurt Labor in the West and the Dems chances in 2008!

If the Dems lose in 2008, we need to take a serious look at the Democratic platform and rebalance our priorities. We can't afford 8 more years of going down the tubes. Labor and everyone else are losing (corporate profits at an all-time high; health care a mess; schools suck...American is less competitive in a very global marketplace; and, Labor jobs are being cut all over). We can't keep blaming Nader and voting machines folks.

(**In an era when even Newt and Bush are singing songs of change. Take notice everyone, this is how they could win again in 2008: we need change and we have the plan for you; the Dems either don't have a plan or its wrong. This would minimize or take away the Dems arguement. They keep doing it over and over, and win.)