Salt Lake City is a finalist for hosting the Republican National Convention in 2012, and Utah leaders are making a big effort to impress the Republican National Committee Site Selection Committee about the qualities of Salt Lake City.
Utah Policy Daily asked Bruce Hough, GOP National Committeeman from Utah, about the process of making a site selection and whether Utah has any real chance of winning:
Q: How does the RNC make the decision about which city will host its national conventions? Does the entire National Committee vote, or is the decision made by a smaller group?
A: There are 168 members of the RNC comprised of a National Committeeman, National Committeewoman and Chairman from each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia and the Territories of the U.S.
The RNC Chairman selects a member of the RNC to serve as Chairman of Site Selection. The RNC members are divided into 4 geographic regions and the members of each region elect two members (typically a male and female) to represent them on the Site Selection Committee. They also elect an alternate in the event one of the Site Selection Committee member's states is selected as a finalist state in the bid process. (For example, I was elected as a representative of the Western Region and was selected by RNC Chairman Michael Steele to be the Co-Chairman of the Site Selection Committee; but after reviewing 14 city presentations, the Committee selected Tampa, Phoenix, and Salt Lake as the finalist cities and I was required to recuse myself from participating on the site selection committee. I was replaced by the Western Region Alternate, the State Chairman from Alaska.)
After the Site Selection Committee completes on-site visits to the potential host cities it will deliberate and make a decision on which city will host the 2012 Republican National Convention sometime in May, or June at the latest. They will notify the selected city to begin the process of creating contracts between the city's host committee and the RNC in preparation for a ratifying vote of the entire body of the RNC (comprised of the 168 members) at the RNC Summer Meeting at the end of July this year. Traditionally, the whole committee ratifies the decision of the Site Selection Committee. However, in the times that the party has a President in office, that decision tends to be directed by the White House.
Four years ago, Tampa was "selected" to host the 2008 Convention but at the last minute before it was announced publicly, the RNC Chairman at the time decided to award the convention to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Apparently, there was a feeling that having the convention in Minnesota would help Republican candidates in that region of the country. Somehow, the voters didn't get that message, because Senator Norm Coleman ended up losing to Al Franken anyway.
Q: Realistically, what are the chances of Salt Lake City winning the 2012 Republican National Convention?
A: Clearly Tampa is the city to beat since they have now bid three times.... but stranger things have happened. If the Site Selection were to actually make a decision strictly on the merits; i.e., Ability to Host the Convention (see the 2002 Olympic Games in SLC for the answer to that question) and Delegate Experience (will the actual delegates who attend the convention have easy access to venues without traveling long distances, without being molested by non-participants, have a good lodging experience, and be able to enjoy the city and surrounding areas i.e., food, beverage, cultural and recreation opportunities etc.), then SLC has a very good chance to Host the 2012 Convention. But, clearly, there will be some political considerations. There always is. However, in our review of Republican Conventions over the past 150 years, there seems to be no positive correlation of moving states into the Republican column by holding conventions in non-Republican states.
The good news, however, is that RNC Chairman Steele has indicated that this will be a committee decision and not a Chairman's decision.
From the mere perspective of weather, SLC has a clear advantage. The end of August and first of September is the beginning of Hurricane season in Florida and the monsoon season in Phoenix. SLC weatherwise is a no-brainer. We know how to host this type of event. We have the best volunteers and people and we have great facilities. Also, what better state to showcase the success of Republican principles than Utah. We are the best managed state in the country and among the best business climates as well. It is a good time to make the intermountain region a focus for political activity and the west in general has not had a convention for many years. I think as a member of the Republican National Convention, I could easily vote for my home state!
The biggest challenge for any host city is that the committee charged with organizing the convention must raise approximately $40 million to host the event. But unlike raising money for a purely political event, this event serves a public purpose and the law allows for the host committee to organize a 501 C-3 non-profit corporation which makes all the contributions to the committee tax deductable and can also be sourced from both individuals and companies from anywhere in the U.S. over a two year period. As a National Security Event, the U.S. Congress will typically grant the majority of the cost for security and there are some other funding mechanisms available as well. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Convention ended with some $16m in surplus monies which became available for charitable purposes in their community.