- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

DENVER — Democrats yesterday announced that Denver will host the 2008 Democratic National Convention, rewarding the Rocky Mountain West for the party’s recent electoral gains despite problems over the city’s lackluster union presence.

The Mile High City beat out New York as the convention site after months of delays stemming from Denver’s labor pains, concerns over hotel rooms and fundraising questions.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s lack of enthusiasm ultimately may have sealed the decision, especially when compared with the unbridled excitement of Denver’s political leaders.

“We are, needless to say, elated,” said Denver Mayor John W. Hickenlooper, who vowed to make the event “the best convention ever.”

Few Coloradans remember the city’s last presidential convention. It was in 1908, when Democrats came to Denver to nominate William Jennings Bryan, who ultimately lost to William Howard Taft.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean cited the party’s strong showing in November in the Rockies. Democrats made gains in state legislatures and picked up the U.S. Senate seat in Montana and the Colorado governor’s office.

The party’s success in the traditionally Republican region fits with Mr. Dean’s 50-state strategy, which calls for contesting Republicans in every state. Although Denver votes dependably Democratic, Republicans hold the voter registration edge statewide and sided with President Bush in 2004.

“This is a part of the country that hasn’t been marketed by either party,” Mr. Dean said. “The Republicans have taken it for granted, and the Democrats have assumed that they can’t win.”

Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, lobbied hard for Denver, arguing that the Rocky Mountain West is pivotal to the party’s success in presidential elections. Bringing the convention to Denver shows that the Democrats aren’t just the party of the coasts, he said.

“It’s important that we do this convention in the West,” Mr. Salazar said. “Over the years, we’ve gone to New York, we’ve gone to L.A., we’ve gone to the coasts, but it’s been a long time since we’ve gone to the interior.”

The party’s last non-coastal convention was in 1988 in Atlanta. Since most Democratic conventions have been held at liberal-friendly sites, it remains to be seen whether a Colorado venue will affect voting patterns, Mr. Dean said.

The 2008 convention is scheduled to run from Aug. 25 to 28. Most events will be held at the Pepsi Center, which became a bone of contention for one union.

The local stagehands union threatened to strike during the convention unless the meetings were moved from the Pepsi Center to another venue. The Pepsi Center, which is owned by Wal-Mart relative Stan Kroenke, is not a union arena.

Mr. Dean said “there is no agreement,” but that he was confident the issue could be resolved before the convention.

The city needs to raise $80 million to host the convention, which is estimated to draw $160 million in tourism business. About 35,000 delegates and members of the press are expected to attend the event.

The Republican National Committee announced in September that its 2008 convention would be held in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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