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Philadelphia Keeps Itself In Running For 2016 Democratic Convention

Wells Fargo Center (credit: Bruce Bennett/ Getty Images)

Wells Fargo Center (credit: Bruce Bennett/ Getty Images)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —     Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter has sent a letter to the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee expressing interest in hosting the party’s 2016 national convention.

Though the convention is still more than two years away, Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, sent letters to more than 30 cities in early February, asking that they let her know by March 1st if they wanted to bid on hosting it.

A group of officials who represent the Philadelphia area has been lobbying to get the convention here for several years, and sources say they began to fear that the mayor would let the deadline pass without responding, as happened in 2012.

Philadelphia city councilman Jim Kenney went so far as to introduce a resolution in City Council saying Council should accept Schultz’s invitation, “since the Administration does not plan to convey interest in recruiting this massive economic boost to Philadelphia.”

Kenney says failing to pitch for the 2016 convention would be shortsighted.

“It’s too big a deal not to pursue it,” he tells KYW Newsradio.  “Twenty-sixteen is the worst year for citywide conventions, as far as hotel bookings. This would not solve that problem but it would plug a huge hole.”

Kenney notes that the city has hosted the Democrats twice (the last time in 1948) and Republicans three times (including in 2000, when an investment of $66 million in public and private spending through a specially established nonprofit generated $345 million in revenue).

“This would be a boon for the community,” agrees Montgomery County commissioner Josh Shapiro, “and it would be great for democracy to come to the foundation of our democracy and have the Democratic convention here.”

The letter from Schultz, the DNC chair, lays out several requirements:  the venue must have seats for 18,500 to 25,000 people and 100 skyboxes (in Philadelphia, the venue would be the Wells Fargo Center); the city must have 17,000 hotel rooms and 1,000 suites.  It also says having unionized employees at the venue and in the hotels was a top priority.

Several of the cities bowed out of the running, but at least eight have expressed interest.

US Rep. Bob Brady (D-Phila.) says Schultz approached him in Washington yesterday to say that she was concerned she had not heard back from Mayor Nutter.

Brady says he immediately called the mayor, who was in New Orleans today, attending an antiviolence conference, and Nutter told him he was unaware of the Saturday deadline but was interested in staying in the running.

“He’s a busy guy. That’s what I’m here to do to help him, to make him aware of the deadlines, especially when it comes to national politics,” Brady said.

Within hours, the mayor sent a letter thanking Schultz for the invitation to bid.

“I appreciate your interest in Philadelphia and encouragement as we consider the opportunity to host this important national event,” it says.  “There is no doubt that Philadelphia’s rich history, cultural vitality, diverse communities and growing population would provide an ideal backdrop for the Democratic Party’s convention in 2016.”

The mayor’s spokesman refused to comment.