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De Blasio Could Be Real Winner With Democratic National Convention in City

By Jeff Mays | August 12, 2014 6:24pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio has much to gain and not much to lose if city lands 2016 Democratic National Convention, say political observers.
Brooklyn Democratic National Convention Could Help a City— and Its Mayor
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PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Some of the city's most notable politicians stood outside the Barclays Center at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues Monday and talked about the benefits of bringing the 2016 Democratic National Convention to the city.

Sen. Chuck Schumer called Brooklyn "the future" and talked about how many new immigrants make the borough home. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton talked how easy and safe it is to get to the arena.

"There it is," he said pointing to the nearby subway station as he listed the available train lines at the Barclays Center stop.

City officials talked about the hundreds of millions of dollars that could be pumped into the local economy and Brooklyn Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo argued that he borough simply has "swag on lockdown."

But the prime beneficiary of the convention could be Mayor Bill de Blasio. With the national spotlight on New York City, de Blasio would have a chance to push his progressive agenda and influence the future of the Democratic Party, say political observers.

"Having the Democratic National Convention in New York City would be a huge opportunity for the mayor," said Evan Thies, a political consultant who is the president of Brooklyn Strategies. "It draws attention to his city at a moment when the party is considering its identity and he's pushing a progressive agenda he hopes will be adopted around the country."

The mayor was not at the Barclays Center press conference Monday, opting instead for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors "Cities of Opportunity Task Force" at Gracie Mansion.

One of the mayors present was Michael Nutter of Philadelphia whose city is considered stiff competition for New York in landing the convention. One of the main arguments against New York hosting the convention is that Pennsylvania could be an important Democratic swing state.

Phoenix, Columbus, Ohio, and Birmingham, Ala., are also being considered.

On Tuesday, de Blasio held more meetings with DNC officials, taking the subway to and from the Barclays Center.

Peter Ragone, a senior advisor for strategic planning for the de Blasio Administration dismissed the swing state argument.

"I have actually worked with a number of presidential campaigns in my life and frankly if Pennsylvania is a swing state we have much bigger problems than where the convention is going to be held," said Ragone, who worked for Al Gore's presidential campaign.

Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, said he doubts Phoenix has much of a chance to land the convention. Democrats feel pretty comfortable that they can lock up the Latino vote because of Republican positions on issues such as immigration, he said.

De Blasio and Nutter both declined to talk about the convention or the competition between New York and Philadelphia.

Instead, the mayors gathered at Gracie focused on the types of issues de Blasio likely speak about if the convention were held in Brooklyn, including wage laws, income inequality and pre-k expansion.

"The convention is likely going to be a moment when the party is considering important questions of how to treat the business community, economic policy and the domestic and foreign agenda," Thies said. "The national conversation is broad and fluid so de Blasio could make a real impact in a way he may never have again."

The mayor also highlighted the economic benefits of hosting what he hoped would be a "five borough convention" that could draw 30,000 people to the city. One of the goals of the convention, said de Blasio, would be to make sure people benefit economically "all over the city," including women and minority owned businesses.

Falcón said there's a risk for the Democratic Party in choosing New York.

"Brooklyn is seen as this hip, but hyper-liberal place which could be a real Republican target depending on how someone like (potential nominee) Hilary Clinton wants to project herself politically in 2016," he said.

But if the convention does land here, "for de Blasio it shows that he's a real national player," said Falcón.

Thies agreed.

"There is no downside. If it goes to another city that has a lot less Democrats or is a swing state the mayor could always say he understands why the party would want to reach out," said Thies.

"He still looks good for saying that New York is the capital of the world and it's appropriate for us to always want to host important national moments."