Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Thanks but no thanks, Buckhorn says to bid for Democratic National Convention

TAMPA — The Democratic National Committee has invited Tampa to consider bidding for the party's 2016 national convention, but Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Thursday that he's cool to the idea.

"It's flattering," he said of the DNC's invitation, which also went to a couple of dozen other cities nationwide. "After hosting the Republican National Convention, I think everyone recognizes that we set the standard for how those events should be run."

The 2012 GOP convention here attracted 50,000 visitors. Shortened by a day because of Tropical Storm Isaac, the RNC generated a direct economic impact calculated at more than $214 million. The week saw only two arrests and no violent clashes, though civil libertarians contend an excessive police presence chilled the exercise of free speech.

But however proud Buckhorn is of Tampa's record on the RNC, he said "the Democratic convention is a very different animal."

"I think it would be much more difficult to be able to put together a competitive bid for the Democrats, largely because in 2012, they prohibited the city of Charlotte (N.C.) from taking corporate money," he told reporters. "You guys saw the numbers."

Without corporate or lobbyist support, the Democrats' host committee in Charlotte struggled to raise $24.1 million in cash and in-kind contributions — far short of its $36.6 million goal. Planners cut millions from the budget but still had to draw nearly $8 million from a $10 million line of credit that Duke Energy had extended for the convention.

"By contrast, our host committee raised $50-plus million," Buckhorn noted. The private, nonprofit Tampa Bay Host Committee received about 91 percent of its money in six- or seven-figure chunks. Sixty percent of its support came from just 18 donors, including Cisco Systems, AT&T, Bright House Networks, Microsoft, Bank of America, Florida Power & Light and the American Petroleum Institute.

Nine pages of specifications the DNC sent to Buckhorn spell out a range of logistical requirements that the city knows well — for an arena, for hotels, for buses and for security — but say nothing about corporate support. Rather, the DNC simply said it expects a local committee to "develop a financial package consisting of cash and in-kind services to cover the cost" of hosting the convention.

Still, Buckhorn is not interested in risking a replay of Charlotte's experience. In the months before the 2012 conventions, he regularly talked to then-Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who was personally involved in raising money for the local host committee, something Buckhorn didn't do.

"If that (DNC) requirement is still in place, I can't see a scenario that I would be willing to put the city at risk to host that knowing full well that we couldn't raise the money without taking corporate money," the mayor said.

And unlike the GOP, Buckhorn said, the Democratic Party does not have an infrastructure of donors with deep pockets in this part of Florida. By contrast, St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards and two of his companies put in $4.6 million of the money for the RNC.

"I just don't think that we have the resources here in the Tampa Bay area to muster the kind of money that it would take to put on a comparable convention, and I don't want to do anything less than what we did before," Buckhorn said.

If the city won the bid to host and fell short, the burden would fall on the city "to kick in the money to make up the difference, and I'm not just willing to do it."

Democratic donors in South Florida might have that kind of money, Buckhorn said, "but why would someone in South Florida write a check to a convention in Tampa?" (That's a hurdle the RNC's host committee knows well. For all of its success anywhere else, it had little luck raising money in Orlando or from big players like Disney or Universal Studios.)

Buckhorn did share the DNC's letter with Santiago Corrada, the president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, which is following City Hall's lead.

"We're not inclined to pursue it if the mayor's not in support and if there's not a local push to raise the monies that are necessary," said Corrada, who was Buckhorn's chief of staff and City Hall's main liaison to the RNC before he went to work for Visit Tampa Bay.

Buckhorn acknowledges the irony of a Democratic mayor who is warmer to the memory of hosting an RNC than to the prospect of hosting a DNC.

"Emotionally, my heart would be clearly on the stage at the Democratic National Convention, but the practical financial realist in me as a mayor recognizes that they're two very different things," he said. "I'm not naive enough to think that we could pull this off without an awful lot of help that I'm just not sure is there."

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote Tampa and other cities last month to gauge their interest in the 2016 convention.

She asked for written responses by Saturday from cities that want to bid. Philadelphia says it's in. St. Louis, Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, have opted out.

For Tampa, it's a "feather in the cap even to be considered," said Ken Jones, president of the Tampa Bay Host Committee for the RNC.

"It would be a tremendous opportunity to Tampa to shine again," said Jones, who is on record promising to help if the DNC ever decided to come to Tampa. "That said, you have to have the support of the city's leadership. That includes the mayor, the business community, the philanthropic community. If you don't have that support, it's hard to do."

Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, danielson@tampabay.com or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Thanks but no thanks, Buckhorn says to bid for Democratic National Convention 02/27/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Putin visits France, hopes to mend strained ties with West

    World

    VERSAILLES, France — On a visit likely to shape Russia-France ties for years, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles on Monday for what the newly-elected French leader said would be "demanding" talks on Syria, the Ukrainian crisis and other …

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France, Monday. Monday's meeting comes in the wake of the Group of Seven's summit over the weekend where relations with Russia were part of the agenda, making Macron the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the talks. [AP photo]
  2. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside

    Outdoors

    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)
  3. Clearwater man dies after diving from boat into shallow waters

    Public Safety

    A 49-year-old man died after he jumped off a pontoon boat into shallow waters Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico.

  4. Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise

    Food & Dining

    Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the cinema is precisely what it was a generation …

    The Features Gastropub is located inside the Riverview 14 GDX theater in Gibsonton, Fla. on Thursday, May 25, 2017.   The 5,900-square-foot Features Gastropub open in the . This element of the project is the brainchild of Philadelphia chef Brian Duffy, who appears frequently on NBC's The Today Show and the Spike TV show Bar Rescue
  5. JFK's last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht

    Nation

    It has been 100 years since John F. Kennedy's birth on May 29, 1917, at his parents' home in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston. Over the course of his life, Kennedy enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, the most famous being a Democratic fundraising bash at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, when a sequined …

    President John F. Kennedy aboard the Sequoia in 1963 opening birthday presents. [Robert Knudsen | John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum]