At least a couple of prominent local Democrats say they understand Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s reluctance to pursue holding a Democratic National Convention in Tampa in 2016, despite the city’s success with the 2014 Republican convention.
Ana Cruz, long-time Tampa-based political strategist, said Buckhorn is right that fundraising could be a major problem, and Alan Clendenin, vice chairman of the state Democratic Party and a member of the Democratic National Committee, said a Democratic convention would be much more difficult logistically than a GOP event.
Tampa is one of 30 cities that got invitations from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who’s Democratic National Committee chairwoman, to bid to host the convention, along with Orlando and Miami.
Buckhorn, even though he’s a Democrat who’s thought to have aspirations to higher office, and was a high-profile booster of the 2014 event, immediately expressed wariness.
He said it would be tough to raise the local money needed to put on the event because of the recent prohibition on seeking corporate donations, and the lack of unionized hotels in the Tampa area also would be a problem. Democrats prefer to patronize unionized workplaces, and the DNC’s invitation to bid said contracting with unionized labor and hotels was “a priority.”
Buckhorn’s reasons could seem thin – the 2012 Democratic convention took place in Charlotte, which also lacks unionized hotels, and the corporate fundraising prohibition came from the Obama campaign, meaning it may not be in place in 2016.
But Cruz said regardless whether the prohibition is in effect, “It’s a really monstrous fundraising job, and we don’t have the Democratic fundraising power that Miami has.”
“The same big donors are already being asked to support the presidential candidates, the congressional and senate campaigns and the party itself,” she added.
“When things aren’t properly funded, that’s when things go wrong – and it happens when your city is in a national spotlight,” she said. “There’s too much to risk if you come up short.”
A Democratic convention includes far more delegates than a GOP convention, in part because of Democratic rules requiring demographic diversity in state delegations, and therefore draws a much larger, more diverse crowd, Clendenin said.
“The scale of a DNC is much greater,” he said. “There’s probably only about 10 cities around the country that can accommodate our event.”
Despite his concerns, Buckhorn said he’s not ruling out making a bid for the convention.
Miami city officials didn’t return calls about whether they intend to apply to host the event.
Heather Fagan, a spokeswoman for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, said Orlando “is interested in participating” in the application process to obtain “more detailed information that will allow us to determine if it is in the best interest of the City to pursue the DNC.”
In 2014, the city of Orlando declined invitations to apply to host both conventions, citing its likely interference with Orlando’s existing tourist industry, but Fagan said it could be possible this year if the timing of the convention doesn’t interfere with the city’s “high season.”