Las Vegas has proved it knows how to hold a convention, putting on seven of the largest every year.
Now the city might get two chances to throw a big political party that would gain worldwide attention.
On Tuesday, the Democratic National Convention invited Las Vegas and 14 other cities to submit bids to host the party’s 2016 national convention, where Democrats will officially nominate their presidential candidate.
The invitation comes as Nevada’s largest city is a finalist to host the Republican National Convention, competing with five other cities, including Dallas, Denver, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Kansas City, Mo.
Bob List, a senior adviser to the GOP’s Vegas 2016 bid, said it’s great news for Las Vegas that both parties think enough of the so-called “Sin City” to consider holding their most public celebration here. The Vegas 2016 team has been emphasizing the family-friendly, environmental and entertainment side of Southern Nevada to win the convention and downplaying the city’s “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” naughty reputation.
“They (Democrats) probably recognize, as the Republicans have, that the city can do things,” List said in an interview. “And it’s an interesting place for the delegate experience. It’s about time, you know.”
“The stigma’s gone,” List added.
GOOD ODDS FOR GOP CONFAB
Las Vegas and Dallas are considered front-runners in the GOP contest to host the convention, which is expected to draw 50,000 delegates, guests and media, and bring a bit of fame and lots of money, as much as $400 million in revenue.
The proposed site is the Las Vegas Convention Center, which holds virtually nonstop conventions all year around. A person familiar with the facility said it’s possible the convention center can hold both the Republican and Democratic meetings in 2016, but it depends on the parties’ dates and whether there is a pre-scheduled event at the same time.
The Republicans are considering dates in June or July. The Democrats haven’t chosen a time except to say in the summer.
On the Democratic side, it’s unclear how aggressively Nevada’s party leaders will pitch the city for the convention. In February, the DNC put out a low-key invitation to 30 cities, including Las Vegas, and the city “did express interest in receiving” a bid packet, a Washington, D.C., operative said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We support all efforts to bring conventions to Nevada because it is good for our economy,” Zach Hudson, a spokesman for the Nevada Democratic Party, said in a statement.
The fact that Las Vegas is being considered by both parties shows how high the state has risen on the national stage as an electoral battleground as Democrats try to make inroads in the Mountain West, where Republicans used to be stronger, said David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“We’ve now risen in prominence nationally,” Damore said. “The fact that both parties are invested here I think it speaks to a broader shift in the potential geographics of the country. The Mountain West has traditionally been more Republican, and now they’re struggling to maintain those states.”
Colorado, where the 2008 Democratic National Convention was held, has trended Democratic as has Nevada and New Mexico, Damore said, adding that Arizona could become more Democratic leaning too unless the GOP battles back.
Tuesday’s DNC invitation went out to Las Vegas; Atlanta; Chicago; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; Indianapolis; Miami; Nashville, Tenn.; Orlando; New York; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City.
OTHER CITIES FAVORED FOR DEMS
Some cities seem more likely than others to win the Democratic bid.
Obama, who will be leaving the White House in 2017, calls Chicago home, and his potential successor, Hillary Clinton, grew up in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Ill. Clinton, an early potential front-runner in the presidential race, also represented New York in the Senate.
Clinton is a former secretary of state and first lady as well. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, accepted his party’s presidential nomination during a 1992 convention in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Vice President Joe Biden, who is leaving the door open to a 2016 campaign, represented Delaware for six terms in the Senate and grew up in Scranton, Pa. A convention in Philadelphia would be a nod to Biden.
A DNC convention website said cities seriously expressing interest in hosting the Democratic 2016 convention include Columbus, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the DNC chairwoman, sent the bid invitation letter, saying that hosting the party’s celebration to choose its presidential nominee amid the pageantry will generate wall-to-wall media coverage.
Las Vegas has never hosted a national political party convention.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said that the city decided not to bid for the 2012 Democratic convention because the Las Vegas Convention Center — the proposed site of the RNC’s 2016 convention here — didn’t want to host the event because it was busy with other conventions. Republicans, too, were told no that year.
Las Vegas regularly hosts huge conventions of up to 150,000 people and has access to major donors such as Sands Las Vegas Chairman Sheldon Adelson for Republicans and MGM Resorts International’s Chief Executive Officer James Murren for Democrats.
Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.