IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

City officials woo Democrats in 2016 convention bids

Marching bands. Dinner with Broadway stars. Cheesesteak sandwiches. Here’s how five cities are making their bids and trying to win over Democrats.
Brooklyn Makes Pitch For 2016 Democratic National Convention
Members of the Brooklyn United Marching Band attend a press conference pitching the borough of Brooklyn to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC) outside the Barclays Center on Aug. 11, 2014.

City officials across the country are pulling out all the stops to woo members of the Democratic National Committee advisory group who will help determine where the party’s presidential convention will take place in 2016.

The DNC has narrowed its list of potential hosts to five cities, including Philadelphia, Phoenix, New York City’s Brooklyn borough; Columbus, Ohio and Birmingham, Ala.

Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee officially selected Cleveland to be home to its presidential convention. The deputy communications director for the DNC, Lily Adams, told msnbc that the group will wrap up site visits by early September and will make a final decision by the end of this year or early next year.

The DNC is taking into account several criteria, including security, transportation, financing and housing. “This is largely and primarily a logistical and business decision,” said Adams, noting the 15-person advisory group has already visited Birmingham, Columbus and New York City. The advisory group’s members are slated to visit Philadelphia next week and Phoenix next month.

Along with the national honor of being picked, the convention brings in thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to the host city’s economy.

Here’s a closer look at the five cities making their bids and how officials are trying to woo Democrats.

New York City

New York officials, including Big Apple Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Charles Schumer sought to win over the advisory group during their visit this week. De Blasio wants to make Brooklyn the focal point for the event, with the Barclays Center (home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets) serve as the main site for the convention. There would also be event spaces in the other boroughs, including Manhattan.

A red carpet was awaiting the DNC members when they arrived outside Penn Station. They were also treated to a marching band, a New York Water Taxi ride, lunch midcourt from the Barclays Center, dinner with the mayor and Broadway stars at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a barbecue at Gracie Mansion.

“New York City is ready, willing and able to win this convention and make sure it’s a great convention for the Democratic party,” de Blasio said in a press conference, praising the “ease of transportation.” He added, “We have a vast network of buses, taxis, ferries, bike lines, you name it, we got it.”

The last time New York City hosted one of the conventions was in 2004 for the Republicans and in 1992 for the Democrats. Those conventions were held in Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden. Adding buzz to this potential pick is the fact that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton served as a senator in the state. If New York wins the bid, it would be a feather in the cap of recently-elected Mayor Bill de Blasio, the first Democratic mayor in 20 years and the most liberal hizonner since long before then.

Yvonne Cobb, left, and Pearl Carpel wait to greet Democratic National Committee (DNC) representatives, who are considering where to host the 2016 convention, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Philadelphia.
Yvonne Cobb, left, and Pearl Carpel wait to greet Democratic National Committee (DNC) representatives, who are considering where to host the 2016 convention, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Philadelphia.

The City of Brotherly Love has a history of hosting the national conventions (seven times since 1856, including the last one for the Republicans in 2000).

Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, also considered a potential candidate, both have roots in the state. Biden grew up in Scranton. And Clinton’s father was born and raised in the same city and would often visit Scranton as a young child. The Clintons' daughter, Chelsea’s mother-in-law is Marjorie Margolies, a former congresswoman who lives near Philadelphia.

Philadelphia officials plan to take the Democrats on a candle-light tour of Independence Hall, visit the famous Pat’s Steaks for the city’s cheese-steak sandwiches and see the Rocky statue and Liberty Bell. 

City officials have said Philadelphia, which once served as the nation’s capital, is the perfect place for the 2016 convention. Last week, Mayor Michael Nutter held a rally to build support for the bid, insisting site committee members “are going to see things you can’t see anywhere else in the Untied States but in Philadelphia.”


Shortly after the GOP announced it had chosen Cleveland to host its convention, Democratic mayor of Columbus, Michael Coleman, warned that his party risks losing Ohio altogether if it doesn’t choose the Buckeye State’s capitol as the site of its convention.

Officials have lauded its convention center, convenient transportation and Midwest appeal -- not to mention its status as an important swing state. When DNC site selectors toured Columbus earlier this month, they were greeted with a parade and took a visit to the Scioto Mile riverfront park, area hotels and Ohio Stadium – which could serve as the stage for when the presidential nominee could accept the nomination in front of a 100,000-person crowd.

“We have it all,” said former Gov. Ted Strickland said during the DNC visit. “What a quality of life we enjoy in this community. We have good leadership, we have great amenities, wonderful hotels, great facilities. But what Ohio has is more important and what Columbus has is more important than all of those things. We have the people. We are a diverse people and inclusive people.”


Could Southern hospitality win out? The Alabama city, considered a long-shot,  was the first stop in the DNC’s tour last month. Members were taken to several sites, including Regions Field, Barber Motorsports Park and the Birmingham Museum of Art. Proponents also point to its role in the civil rights movement.

But what doesn’t bode well for the state is the fact that Alabama hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 with Jimmy Carter. Nor is it considered a swing state. The state’s GOP was -- perhaps embarrassingly for the Democrats -- willing to welcome the possibility of its state playing host. State Republican chairman Bill Armistead wrote on his blog: “I can think of no better way for the citizens of our state to see the vast differences between the parties than to have the Democrats bring their radical leftist show here,” He added. "Their staunch support of homosexual rights, gay marriage and abortion are in stark contrast to the conservative beliefs that dominate in our great state.”


Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton is trying to sell his city as a winner by pointing to the city’s convention facilities and downtown amenities like restaurants and hotels. He also plans to point to the state’s Latino population that is increasingly getting more politically involved and tend to vote Democratic.

How and if the current border crisis affects the potential bid is yet to be seen. Stanton acknowledged to the Arizona Republic that the city may have to battle the “false impression” that it doesn’t embrace diversity given  recent state legislation like SB1070, which requires local police to check the immigration people they encounter while enforcing other laws.

In February, Phoenix was initially on the short list to hold the Republican National Convention but was out of the running by early April. City officials’ exact plans for the DNC visit have not yet been announced.