Illinois GOP chairman: 2016 Chicago convention talk premature

Clout Street

The chairman of the Illinois Republican Party said Saturday that any discussions about Chicago seeking to host the party's 2016 national convention represents “very loose” talk among a “loose group” of Republicans and has not been sanctioned by the state party. 

In addition, state GOP chairman Jack Dorgan said it is routine for Republicans in Illinois every four years to inquire if the Democrat-dominated city has an interest in applying to host the national GOP convention.

But any discussion now is premature until the Republican National Committee issues requests for proposals to cities seeking the hosting duties. Those requests from the RNC were expected this fall, but officials in Kansas City, which is actively pursuing a bid to host the event, said such applications now are not expected until January.

Kansas City last hosted a national political convention in 1976, when Republican President Gerald Ford was nominated. Chicago last hosted the 1996 Democratic National Convention for the renomination of President Bill Clinton. The last GOP convention in Chicago was 1960, the year Democrat John Kennedy defeated Republican Richard Nixon.

Dorgan acknowledged that an informal group of Republicans met with Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism and convention marketing arm, and said Mayor Rahm Emanuel had been briefed on the idea.

“It’s a loose group of people,” Dorgan said. “It’s nothing that’s party sanctioned at this point. The mayor has not officially asked it to be considered. The mayor nor anyone from the city has approached the state party and asked to be considered.”

Chicago businessman Ron Gidwitz said he has spoken to other Republicans seeking his involvement in a potential bid. “I really haven’t had any conversation with anybody in any official capacity, save some knowledgeable convention people about what might be ultimate interest of the city," he said.

The proposed timing of the 2016 event could preclude Chicago considering making a bid.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has pushed for a convention in late June or early July as part of a shortened primary season and to avoid the nearly two dozen debates that battered Republican presidential candidates during the last campaign. Members of the Republican National Committee are supportive of moving the convention date from late August.

But Chicago’s convention schedule is heavy in June and in the summer months. The need to lock up thousands of hotel rooms for the high-profile political event would come at the expense of existing long-scheduled conventions.

“If the RFP says June, we’ve got a whole lot of conventions in June that I know the city would not like to interfere with,” Gidwitz said.

Representatives for Emanuel’s office and the Republican National Committee were not available for comment Saturday.

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