Decision Looms for Democrats on Convention Site

WASHINGTON (AP) -

For Democrats, New York would offer a diverse tableau in liberal Brooklyn and a touch of Clinton nostalgia. Philadelphia would give the party a patriotic backdrop while Columbus would raise the curtain on another campaign showdown in Ohio.

Democrats are closing in on a final decision on where to hold their 2016 convention, a site that could serve as a passing of the baton from President Barack Obama to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination should she run for president again.

With a price tag of at least $65 million, the choice will come down to whether to set the stage in a big city or in the confines of another battleground state. Obama was formally nominated in Denver in 2008 and in Charlotte, N.C., in 2012, allowing his campaign to use the events to register new voters and recruit volunteers in states crucial to his political map. A final decision is expected within weeks.

New York, the nation’s largest city, has been a popular choice in the past, holding Democratic conventions in 1976, 1980 and 1992, when former President Bill Clinton was first nominated at Madison Square Garden. The city has played up its diversity as the home to a large Latino population and organizers are confident that Brooklyn’s bid — the first time New York has pitched a political convention outside Manhattan — wouldn’t have trouble raising money.

Hillary Clinton represented New York in the Senate and the Clintons live in nearby Westchester County, where the former secretary of state’s presidential campaign is expected to be headquartered should she seek the nomination.

Philadelphia’s organizers point to the city’s heritage as the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were adopted, along with its convenient East Coast location and compact, easy-to-navigate community.

Columbus, meanwhile, would bring the convention to a top battleground state and offer a convenient rebuttal to Republicans, who are holding their July convention in nearby Cleveland.

Downplaying symbolism, party leaders say their choice will be based on practical matters such as finances, transportation, security and available hotel rooms. Organizers of the 2012 convention in Charlotte struggled with fundraising and some delegates at past conventions have complained of long commutes from far-flung hotels.

Brooklyn

Pros: Brooklyn has become its own brand, a comeback story that is a symbol of youthful energy and urban cool. The convention would be held at the gleaming Barclays Center, arguably the nation’s most state-of-the-art arena, while delegates would split their time between Brooklyn and Manhattan just a few subway stops away. Along with its fundraising ability, New York’s Brooklyn has become a symbol of liberalism, embodied by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who will still be in office in 2016.

Cons: The ongoing rift between de Blasio and police, and protests over police conduct in the Eric Garner case. Barclays will rely heavily on the NYPD for security. A New York location could also put a spotlight on Clinton’s ties to Wall Street at a time when some liberals vilify the financial industry.

Columbus

Pros: Ohio’s capital sits at the heart of a coveted swing state. The last Democrat to win the White House without carrying Ohio was John F. Kennedy in 1960 and no Republican ever has. One study found 147.5 million people, or 48 percent of the U.S. population, live within a day’s drive of Columbus. The convention would be held at Nationwide Arena, near an array of restaurants and hotels.

Cons: Columbus does not have the national reputation of its two rivals and has never staged a national convention. The city lacks a robust subway system and its bus system doesn’t effectively serve some of the hotel clusters around the outskirts, where delegates may be staying. The decision by local police to use pepper spray could also be considered.

Philadelphia

Pros: A highly walkable and historic city, Philadelphia has been the home to a variety of large events and played host to the Republican National Convention in 2000. Philadelphia has a booming millennial population, a demographic that Democrats want to capture in next year’s election. Clinton also has ties to Pennsylvania — her father was born in Scranton and she has longtime allies in the state. Democrats have carried Pennsylvania in every presidential election since 1992.

Cons: Though the main political gathering would take place at the Wells Fargo Center, some smaller events would be held at a downtown convention center involved in a major union dispute. During the Republican convention in 2000, police were criticized for their heavy-handed dealings with protesters.