Miami-Dade County

Will Miami host Democratic convention in 2020? City leaders feel pretty confident

DNC site selection committee visits Miami

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber speaks to the Democratic National Committee in Miami in October 2018 as they visit the city as part of their 2020 National Convention selection process.
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Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber speaks to the Democratic National Committee in Miami in October 2018 as they visit the city as part of their 2020 National Convention selection process.

Miami commissioners have sent a message up to the Democratic National Committee in Washington: We’re ready to make a deal.

On Thursday, commissioners unanimously gave the city administration permission to work out an agreement for the city to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The resolution preemptively gives Miami’s administrators the blessing to get to work right away — if Miami is chosen. Miami Beach commissioners passed a similar resolution last year.

Miami-Dade has bid to host the 2020 convention, scheduled for July 13-16, in a joint effort by the county, Miami and Miami Beach. The Beach has taken the lead on Miami-Dade’s bid, which is currently in the final stages. The decision is expected early this year.

Beach Mayor Dan Gelber addressed Miami commissioners before Thursday’s vote, saying the selection committee is currently in negotiations with all three cities vying for the convention. Miami is competing with Milwaukee and Houston. The committee will hash out preliminary details with all three cities as a sort of audition before making the final call.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has said all three are serious contenders. Miami political leaders are confident about their chances.

“It’s obvious to us that Miami is the best choice, so we’ll be ready for them,” said Miami Commissioner Ken Russell.

Mayor Francis Suarez said he believes the resolution is not only a useful step, but a clear signal to D.C. that Miami is ready.

“That’s a huge message,” he said. “That’s a way to get out front.”

Florida is a crucial player in national politics, a populous swing state, with 27 electoral votes and therefore gets serious attention from presidential candidates. Gelber said South Florida’s melting pot mirrors an increasingly diverse population across the country — an apt backdrop, in his opinion, for the Democrats to name their presidential nominee.

“I think we really embody the mosaic of our country going forward,” he said.

Perez recently visited during Art Basel, when he toured Miami and the Beach during one of the busiest large-scale events of the year. A host committee took Perez to the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, where caucus meetings would be held during the day, and AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami, where organizers have proposed holding speeches and voting to select the Democratic nominee. Perez was also treated to lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab and a private dinner at the home of Paul Cejas, a noted Democratic fundraiser and former U.S. ambassador to Belgium under former President Bill Clinton.

Rep. Donna Shalala, the newly elected Democrat who represents Miami Beach in Washington, said she’s been pushing Perez hard on the convention.

“I know Tom Perez very well. He worked for me for four years,” Shalala said. “I sat right next to him at the private dinner we had and I leaned heavily on him.”

Shalala, a former head of the Clinton Foundation and Health and Human Services Secretary under Bill Clinton, knows many of the Democratic Party’s decision-makers well.

Perez’s December visit was part of a second round of trips to the bidding cities. The selection committee also toured the three cities in the fall to evaluate venues and logistics.

The chairman has previously praised Miami’s history for hosting large events, such as multiple Super Bowls, and he’s addressed concerns that could hurt Miami’s chances. The July 2020 convention would be held during hurricane season. Perez said he’s considered the possible threat of a storm, but he’s looked at data that shows hurricanes that hit South Florida tend to occur later in the year.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez sent Miami a letter of support this week, echoing the confidence that Miami is best suited for the convention because of the area’s track record with tourism.

“Miami-Dade County is the perfect place for the 2020 DNC for an number of reasons, but primarily because of our diversity and experience in successfully hosting large, prominent events,” Gimenez wrote.

With the selection committee steeped in negotiations with the three cities and a decision imminent, Thursday was a chance for local politicians to show their enthusiasm for their bid — even those on the other side of the aisle. Both Republicans, Gimenez and Suarez endorse the convention bid and see it as an economic boon for Miami-Dade.

“Hosting in 2020 a Democratic National Convention will create more jobs, will deliver more revenue and will showcase our city as more than just a tourist destination, but a center for innovation, finance and entrepreneurship,” Suarez said.

Staff writer Alex Daugherty contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.