Monday, July 31, 2006

Denver hires Convention Insider for bid - update

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

In a clear sign of the seriousness of Denver's bid to host the 2008 Democratic Convention, as well as the financial ability to support consultants, Denver has hired a "heavy hitter" to run its bid:

Debbie Willhite will be named executive director this week, the host committee confirmed Wednesday. ...

Her hiring brings a major Washington connection to Denver's bid. It also reinforces the seriousness of Denver's host committee. "We feel very proud of the fact that we have had a volunteer group of people bring it to this point," said City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, who will take over as president of the Denver 2008 Host Committee in a volunteer role. "But to bring it home we need to hire professional people - people who have the capability of ensuring that we will get the bid."

The committee is also bringing in Paul Lhevine as director of operations. Lhevine ran Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's campaign in 2003 and most recently worked for the American Red Cross.

Dan Slater lists Willhite's resume:

- Sr. Vice President, United States Postal Service
Executive Asst. to DNC Chair McAuliffe during the 2000 Democratic National Convention
– Executive Director of the Denver Summit of the Eight, 1997
– Co-Executive Director, 53rd Inauguration, 1997
Site Selection Committee, 1996 Democratic National Convention
– Coordinated Campaign Director for the DNC, 1996
– Events Director, 52d Inauguration, 1993
Deputy Convention Director, Clinton for President, 1992
Housing Deputy Director and Floor Whip, Democratic National Convention, 1988
– National Organization for Women Democratic National Convention Delegate Coordinator, 1984
– Advance for Geraldine Ferrarro, Vice Presidential Nominee, 1984

Debbie is a person who knows all of the intricate details of putting a successful convention bid together, as well as the details of putting a convention together, as well. Folks in the DNC know Debbie, and they know that our selection of her — and her agreement to join us — is a sign of a quality organization here in Denver.

It's clear having Willhite on Denver's team will give Denver a leg up. I know that Wally Podrazik, a key logistcs member of the Technical Advisory Group, also did logistics for the two Clinton inaugarations, and therefore worked closely with Willhite. I would guess she personally knows just about every member of the TAG.

Update: The Rocky Mountain News talked to Willhite:
She said a Denver convention would help the Democratic Party advance its successful strategy of attracting independent voters in the Mountain West to win back the White House.

"I think the No. 1 purpose of the convention is to be a launching pad for the presidential nominee," Willhite said. "Denver serves that purpose in a number of ways. The most important way is that it stretches the electoral map and shows that the Democrats are reaching out to the Rocky Mountain West."

She said that gives Denver an edge over the other two competitors for the Democratic convention - New York and Minneapolis-St. Paul.


Anonymous said...

Battle of the consultants? i think its worth noting that minneapolis has had a couple of DC consultants on their payroll for a couple of months now. one of the more interesting names is Lee Satterfield who served as Deptuy DNC Executive Director and Director of Convention Planning for the 04 convention. She also oversaw the site selection process for the last convention.

Anonymous said...

It's not a matter of hiring somebody as a "consultant;" it's an issue of hiring these folks as full-time paid staff.

It's one thing to pay a retainer to a consultant so you can spread their name about; it is quite another to actually hire somebody to run the bid...

Anonymous said...

its a little late in the game to 'run' a bid seeing how the responses to the RFP have already been submitted and the site visits have been made. debbie's experience and expertise could have made a much bigger impact if she was brought in earlier in the process.

Anonymous said...

It's a bit naive to think that the response to the RFP is the big thing in the bid. The critical time in the bidding process is the next four months, not the past three months...

Anonymous said...

I love all the arm-chair quaterbacking going on. If there is anyone with first-hand insight on the site selection process, THAT would be interesting!

Anonymous said...

She's got to say that, about Denver being a jumping off point to the Western states. She's trying to sell Denver. But I don't see Democrats making inroads out here as reason to bring the convention to Denver. Pretty weak argument because there aren't that many electoral votes out here to be had in the first place, let alone states the Democrats could actually take.

She ought to be selling Denver as a great place to have the Convention. Beautiful landscape, diverse people, awesome weather. New Airport/facilities. A vital downtown with hotels and shopping/food/entertainment all in one place close to the Convention. In August the weather will much better here than out East, no humidity. She ought to play these things up too.

She's right though. Taking electoral votes in the West is a mouth-watering prospect for politicos. But again, do the Dems have a message/platform that will grab the Western voter (environmental issues)? It's a canard that Dems shouldn't bite. Don't come here for the votes, but do come here for an awesome time. I just question whether the Dems can steal states out here.

I'm disappointed Denver chose only to pursue the Democratic Convention. It might be a good gamble to go after one, especially with the Democrats who may be emotional about loyalty (see Lieberman). But what does that say about Denver? That we are only open to business with those who share our political opinions? What kind of edge would that put on the Democratic Convention? Certainly not an all inclusive one that Democrats like to portray. Both Minneapolis and New York are trying for both. Why didn't we? We could be sorry that we've put all our eggs in one basket.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add that placing the Convention in Denver allows more possibilities when it comes time for the candidate nomination. I believe it would lend appeal to Clinton if she were chosen and also give Richardson a good Western sendoff. It's got to be hard to look two years down the road and see where things will be. I think strategically New York is out. Dems have got to appeal to heartland voters. So, I would think that would leave only Minneapolis and Denver. What good would it do Clinton (or any other democrat for that matter) to get a NYC send off? That would just bolster GOP "liberal" pastings of the Dem candidate to the rest of the country.

Matt said...

It was the Denver GOP who decided not to bid for the convention, not the Denver government. The GOP just got a late start, plus there were some scheduling conflicts. See for the details.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article Matt. I understand now it's not the local govt's decision to bid for still raises the question for me of the city supporting the bids. The article states the feeling of "uncertainty" generated from conversations with the city. You're right though, ultimately the GOP decided not to do it.

Fingers crossed for Dems in Denver.

Anonymous said...

I'm rooting for the only city loyal to the DNC in this race- Denver, Colorado. I'm glad Denver didn't kiss the butts of the RNC and DNC in hopes of publicity and a shot at both. Denver is a world-class city, and it takes real good western backbone to do what that city's leaders have done. Loyalty is what the Democratic Party is all about; loyalty to all Americans. And Denver is the perfect example of good loyalty in a troubled world.

The DNC should go to Denver for a number of reasons;

1) Loyalty the city's expressed in this bidding process.

2) Denver IS the 50-state strategy in a city; it's got crossover appeal like you can't imagine.

And 3) Denver's got the history and the future to revive a passionate party to win the White House.

That's just to name a few, folks. The Mile High City is a great one, maybe the best there is. What Denver's got, no one else can match. Matt's a non-biased guy, and he won't tell ya' who he's rooting for deep down. But I can say I think he and everybody here and in our party KNOWS that Denver IS the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I know that that town nestled between the plains and the mountains is the one that I'm going to want to be in in 2008. I, like denverdan, know that Denver is one of the world's premier cities. And I know that the Democratic Party could settle for nothing less than that. Go Denver.

Anonymous said...

Cheers (raises beer glass)

Anonymous said...

My fellow Dems, here's to a 2008 Rocky Mountain High!