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Democrats select Boston for '04 with nod to history


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Democrats select Boston for '04 with nod to history

By Glen Johnson, Globe Staff, 11/14/2002

WASHINGTON - Citing Boston's rich political history and its leadership in the 21st century economy, the Democratic National Committee announced yesterday that the party would hold its 2004 presidential nominating convention in the city.

The Democratic National Convention will be held at the FleetCenter during the week of July 26, 2004, a little more than a month before Republicans meet on Aug. 30, 2004. The GOP has yet to settle on a convention site.

Democratic officials said Boston offered a stronger bid than the other three competitors - New York, Detroit, and Miami - helping Boston to overcome criticism that meeting in such a Democratic bastion would exacerbate the party's traditionally liberal image. That concern gained fresh currency last week, when the Republicans bested the Democrats in the midterm elections.

''Each submitted an impressive proposal, each brought tremendous assets to the table, and each is a great American city, but the choice for the Democrats in 2004 is the city of Boston, Mass.,'' Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe announced to cheers during a press conference at a Washington hotel.

Flanked by Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, US Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden, and members of the convention site selection committee, McAuliffe said Boston's political heritage was a desirable underpinning to a convention meant not only to ratify a presidential candidate, but also to convey to voters what the party stands for.

''From the earliest patriots escaping religious persecution to the new immigrants in pursuit of higher learning, from the family in search of life-saving medical treatments to the celebrations of heritage in Boston's historic neighborhoods, Boston is a city that has always answered the call,'' McAuliffe said.

''From the Boston Tea Party to Paul Revere's Midnight Ride to the Battle of Bunker Hill, the story of Boston is the story of America's struggle for freedom. It is the birthplace of American patriotism and an ideal backdrop for an affirmation of the Democratic values.''

The city's selection was a personal coup for Kennedy and Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who fended off last-ditch lobbying by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on behalf of New York City. The convention is expected to attract 35,000 delegates, journalists, and support personnel.

City officials estimate that the crowd will pump $150 million into the local economy.

Boston is budgeting $49.5 million for the convention. Included in that total is $17 million in local, state, and federal government funds, but the city has yet to declare how much it will contribute. Democratic officials said the most important factor that swung the decision in Boston's favor was its unprecedented decision to arrange pledges of $20 million in private funding before the convention site was announced.

''I think that in the end, they understood that no city wanted it more than Boston did,'' Kennedy said to the laughter of the site selection committee. Menino, who stayed in Boston to receive word of the selection with civic leaders at City Hall, said: ''This is a very proud day for me and a very proud day for the city of Boston.''

Governor-elect Mitt Romney issued a statement saying, ''I want Boston to be an example of a great convention destination, and there's no better way to showcase our capital city than by hosting a national political convention.''

Phil Johnston, state Democratic Party chairman, said: ''We are looking forward to helping the Democratic National Committee produce the most successful convention in the history of the Democratic Party.''

The decision to meet in Boston immediately raised the possibility that Kerry, who is expected to run for president in 2004, could win his party's nomination just blocks from his home on Beacon Hill. President Bush is expected to run unopposed for the Republican nomination. Last week he declared that Vice President Dick Cheney would remain his running mate in 2004.

''This has nothing to do with me or any individual candidate who may or may not be running, including myself,'' Kerry said when asked about the possibility of a hometown nomination. ''This has to do with the city of Boston, and it has to do with the quality of the presentation that was made and the message that this site selection committee felt was important for our party and for the country. The nomination will be well decided, no matter who the nominee is, long before the convention convenes.''

After the announcement, Kennedy presented McAuliffe with a gavel carved of timbers from the USS Constitution. An aide said later that the gavel had been given to Kennedy by the late House Speaker Thomas P. ''Tip'' O'Neill Jr. of Cambridge. Another gavel will be carved for McAuliffe.

Markey, dean of the state's House delegation, called the convention ''the political Super Bowl.''

''There is a delirium that is breaking out at every Dunkin' Donuts shop across the state of Massachusetts that would be hard to capture,'' he said.

The announcement followed more than four years of courtship that started when Boston failed in its bid for the 2000 Democratic convention. Last summer, members of the party's 45-person site selection committee fanned out across the country to visit each bidder. Yesterday they regrouped in Washington to share their findings and make a recommendation. The committee met for 90 minutes behind closed doors before journalists were invited in to witness its vote.

Joe Andrew, cochairman of the selection committee, lauded each of the bidders and said, ''These are all places we intend to win when we win the presidency in 2004.''

Alice Huffman, the committee's cochairwoman, then said that during the review, ''We felt like there was one shining star that came to the fore.''

At that point, committee member Joe Carmichael, the state party chairman in Missouri, interrupted to nominate Boston. His motion was seconded by Lottie H. Shackleford, an African-American and former mayor of Little Rock, Ark.

Shackleford's second had political significance. During the site committee's visit to Boston last summer, some members complained that they did not see enough minority representation on the welcoming committee, during a tour of the FleetCenter, and during meetings with Menino's staff. Yesterday, Shackleford cited letters submitted by leaders of Boston's minority community as she voiced her support for meeting in the city.

The committee approved the nomination unanimously by voice vote at 11:52 a.m. Soon after, McAuliffe announced he was accepting the recommendation, following phone calls to Menino and the losing bidders.

At City Hall, the mayor surrounded himself with a diverse group of politicians, community leaders, and business people to await the announcement. Among them was state Representative Marie St. Fleur of Dorchester, state Senator Dianne Wilkerson of Roxbury, and Darnell Williams, president and chief executive of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.

In announcing the selection of Boston, Democrats cited twin themes, that the city symbolizes important political history and that it is home to cutting-edge businesses.

''This selection is more about Boston's present and future than its past,'' McAuliffe said. ''Home to 68 colleges and universities, it is a world-class education center. It boasts state-of-the-art medical institutions and research centers, is a national leader in technology, venture capital, and other 21st century industries. And as a majority-minority city that people from around the world call home, Boston is a city that draws its strength from its diversity.''

Scott Greenberger and Yvonne Abraham of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 11/14/2002.

© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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