Top Miami Democrat blasts DNC’s ‘massive’ convention delay

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine

“We were told this would happen in January, and it’s March and we still don’t know where the convention is going to be,” said former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. | Aaron Davidson/Getty Images For SOBEWFF

2020 Elections

Organizers wanted to raise millions of dollars in the first quarter for the primary, but they still don’t know where it will be.

The co-chair of Miami’s effort to land the 2020 Democratic convention criticized what he called unwarranted delays by the Democratic National Committee as it selects a site — delays that could hamstring the eventual hosts of the party confab.

“Everybody should have a concern over this massive delay and how it affects the planning and funding of a convention,” said Philip Levine, the co-chair of the convention effort and Miami Beach’s former mayor. “We were told this would happen in January, and it’s March and we still don’t know where the convention is going to be.”

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The longer the delay, the longer it takes to raise the needed money to secure sponsors and line up vendors for the convention, Levine said. He said Miami wanted to raise between $8 million and $10 million in the first quarter of the year, “but the first quarter is two-thirds over.”

A DNC spokesperson said the organization and Chairman Tom Perez, who ultimately makes the decision about where Democrats will nominate their presidential candidate, will make a choice soon. But “we’re still evaluating all three cities” under consideration, the spokesperson said: Miami, Houston and Milwaukee.

Levine, stopping short of criticizing Perez by name, said all three cities should be concerned. Democrats in Milwaukee and Houston have privately shared Levine’s concerns, while others have suggested Levine is “freaking out” and potentially hurting the case for South Florida, given that DNC officials had asked the host committees vying for the convention not to talk to the press.

Either way, the delay has increased pressure and attention on Perez. It could even be the first act in a potentially chaotic spectacle in July 2020, when a crowded Democratic presidential primary could culminate in a brokered convention and multi-round delegate fight.

Levine pointed out that the GOP has already selected its site, Charlotte, N.C., and has had no convention drama.

Miami officials have grown increasingly frustrated with both the pace of the selection process and the sense that Perez favors Milwaukee, where he has family ties. The main attraction to Milwaukee: Democrats want to emphasize the importance of the Midwest, where President Donald Trump won states that Republicans had not carried in decades in 2016.

Democrats also lost the nation’s biggest swing state, Florida, and Miami Democrats say a convention in South Florida would also help avoid a repeat Trump victory.

Said one Miami Democrat involved in discussions about the convention: “The fix is in for Milwaukee. And Perez is just trying to find a way to justify it.”

Another DNC official shared the sentiment, but a third who has spoken repeatedly with Perez told POLITICO that no decision has been made. Perez held a conference call Tuesday with DNC members involved in the convention site selection and reiterated the point.

“Tom said this would take days, not weeks,” the official said. “He said no decision has been made and I believe him. But the belief is Miami is no. 3, despite all the spin. It’s between Milwaukee and Houston.”

Still, the official said, the selection has taken longer than initially anticipated.

Regardless, Levine said that time is money.

“Fundraising is work you have to do over a period of time,” Levine said. “There are bills to pay. There are logistics to plan. It takes time. It takes time to reach donors. It takes time to put packages together to get companies to sponsor events. They don’t do this overnight. They need time. And we’re losing time. And when the time is reduced, all three cities will have a more challenging time.”

Miami last month began a last-ditch convention push amid rumors that Milwaukee was the favored city. The governors of Wisconsin and Illinois have weighed in on behalf of Milwaukee. Neither Miami nor Houston are in states with Democratic governors.

The 2020 convention planning once involved New York Democrat Leah Daughtry, who was hired by Perez to write requests for proposals for the convention cities and was the CEO for the 2008 and 2016 Democratic conventions. She has worked on every convention since 1992.

But Perez decided not to keep her on, which Daughtry said was the chair’s prerogative. She suggested that Milwaukee’s relatively small size and limited hotel capacity could become a challenge if there’s a contested convention and more campaigns are in town.

“I don’t know that a fix is in,” Daughtry said. “And I hope and expect that the chair would be most concerned about a convention site that would accommodate the delegates, the media and the politics that will be present in this most unconventional convention.”

Daughtry said Democrats “are likely to walk into a convention with at least two or three candidates still standing. A city with the capacity to grow – to accommodate these changes, which we may not know until the last minute – is a city that would be most successful. What I’ve seen of the three cities, certainly Houston and Miami have room to grow. Milwaukee would be a tighter fit.”

Milwaukee and Houston boosters note that Miami has a relatively old arena, however.

DNC officials recently asked for more data about accommodations in Milwaukee, but an official involved with the planning there said that wasn’t a problem, nor was the delay.

“No one in Milwaukee is freaking out,” the Democratic official said. “The DNC is asking for more information, and it’s a big decision, so we understand that and we’re happy to give them whatever they need.”

But another top Democrat involved in the selection process said that it appears the “DNC just dove into this and have a level of urgency that probably happened too late.”

Levine said he just wants a decision made. And it feels like it’s getting too late.

“I’m so confused at this point that I just don’t know,” Levine said. “We’re not the only city that feels this way.”

Natasha Korecki, David Siders and Alex Thompson contributed reporting.

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