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Updated Feb 27, 2014 - 5:59 pm

Arizona GOP: Bill won’t hurt 2016 convention bid

PHOENIX — State legislation that would have allowed business owners to
refuse to serve gays for religious reasons likely won’t impact Phoenix’s chances
of hosting the 2016 national convention, Arizona Republican Party officials said

The Republican National Committee’s focus in evaluating potential sites is on
venues, transportation and security, Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham said.

“If anything, they want to have a fantastic venue and a city that has
transportation and resources to support the venue.” He said. “Phoenix is most
definitely capable of doing that.”

Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which sparked a
nationwide furor and evoked calls for businesses to boycott Arizona. Despite
being nixed, the legislation and its effect on the state’s image is still a hot
topic of conversation. Complaints that the legislation basically legalized
discrimination against gays and lesbians contrasts with recent efforts by
Republicans to be more inclusive.

Graham and other representatives for the Arizona GOP, including former U.S.
Sen. Jon Kyl, and Phoenix will present their bid to the RNC selection committee
Monday in Washington, D.C.

Phoenix Councilman Bill Gates is among those heading to Washington. Gates, a
Republican, voted in favor Tuesday of a council resolution asking Brewer to veto
the bill. Even the fact that lawmakers approved such legislation won’t cause
irreparable damage to the state’s image, he said.

“I think that people understand that what matters is the overall record of a
state and we have a great record. We have a very diverse state. That’s what
people are going to look at, not at any individual one vote,” Gates said.

Phoenix is one of eight cities party leaders are considering. Other cities in
the running include Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Mo., and three in
Ohio _ Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The chosen city will be announced
this fall.

If Phoenix wins hosting duties, the state GOP will have to raise $55 million
through private and corporate donations, according to Graham. But the city would
also invest some funds. Graham believes the city could see anywhere from $600
million to a half-billion dollars in spending.

“This is one of those opportunities that touches everybody _ corporations,
waiters, servers,” he said. “Given the venue, the opportunity, our capacity,
the predictable weather, there’s not much that would derail a successful

GOP officials expect to hold their convention in the early summer of 2016,
roughly two months sooner than has become the norm and at a time when Phoenix’s
usually sweltering summers are in full swing. Republicans plan to begin visiting
potential sites later in the spring and will make their final pick by this fall.

In general, the RNC’s site-selection committee looks at how much hotel and
convention space a city can offer and how it would handle security and
transportation, RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney said. He declined to comment on how
much weight, if any, would be given to the political climate in Phoenix.

“To speculate on a specific city before they come in and make their bids, I
don’t think that’s fair to the other cities,” he said.


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