Tampa loses bid for GOP convention
Republican Party officials announced today that the 2008 Republican National Convention will go to Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Al Austin, who chaired the team attempting to woo the GOP to Tampa, said Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee called Wednesday afternoon to deliver the news.
The announcement was officially made during a teleconference between Washington, D.C., and the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, where the convention will be held.
Jo Ann Davidson, a co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said the committee chose Minneapolis in a voice vote. Davidson said the vote was not unanimous but declined to give details.
Davidson said the committee was impressed with Minneapolis' convention center and the financial package the Twin Cities put together. But she did not give specific examples of what led the committee to pick Minneapolis over the other finalists.
"All four cities put in excellent bids," Davidson said. "All four cities did an excellent job hosting the site selection committee."
Minneapolis was also a finalist to host the Democratic National Convention.
Elected leaders from the Twin Cities, including St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, reacted to the news with elation.
"The good news about the Republicans choosing us is they have more money than the Democrats," joked Coleman, who ran as a Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate in 2005.
(AP photo of Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, where the convention will be held. Click to enlarge.)
As news of the failed bid trickled out Wednesday, local elected leaders acknowledged their disappointment.
“I thought we were a shoo-in,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said.
“Not a good day for Tampa,” echoed City Council member Mary Alvarez.
Several public officials who spoke with the Times said Tampa made a top-notch pitch for the GOP convention. They said the facilities, hotels, restaurants and other amenities met the needs for the convention.
If concerns of hurricanes quashed the bay area’s chances, they said, it wasn’t a good reason.
“We addressed that head-on during our business meeting with the RNC,” Hagan said. RNC members didn’t seem too concerned at the time of their visit, he added.
The leaders said they all supported Tampa’s making a bid for another national convention in the future, whether it’s with the Republicans or Democrats.
Mayor Pam Iorio struck a positive note in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. She thanked the selection committee for considering the Tampa-St. Petersburg area and congratulated Minneapolis-St. Paul.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the many people of this region who helped in crafting the bid proposal and hosted the Site Selection Committee in August,” the mayor said. “I greatly appreciate the leadership of Al Austin and the RNC Host Committee comprised of local business leaders. I also want to thank the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau under the direction of Paul Catoe for their outstanding work on the bid package and the coordination of the site visit.
“Had our community been selected I believe this entire region would have hosted a tremendously successful convention. We have all the assets necessary to host large scale events and when we host special events we shine. We look forward to future opportunities to bid on national conventions.”