DENVER -- The Democratic National Committee announced yesterday that it will hold its 2008 convention in Denver to showcase the party's expansion into the once reliably Republican terrain of the Rocky Mountain West.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean said that symbolism is what pushed Denver's bid ahead of its competition, perennial convention candidate New York.
"It's fitting that the next president of the United States will be nominated in Denver," Dean said in a conference call. "If we win the West, we will win the presidency."
The selection of Denver is yet another sign of the Democratic Party's investment in the West. Democrats won Colorado's governorship in November and control all branches of the state's government for the first time in four decades. Democrats also picked up a Senate seat in Montana. The governors of all but one of Colorado's neighboring states - Utah - are Democrats.
"You have the combination of Republicans with a socially conservative face in the last decade alienating some Republican voters in a libertarian region, plus the demographics of voters moving into the region who are not necessarily conservative Republicans," said political demographer Rhodes Cook.
Denver initially bid for the 2000 convention, which went to Los Angeles. Last year it tried again, arguing that political shifts in the West merited a convention in the Rockies.
It found a receptive audience in Dean, a former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate who took over the national party chairmanship and vowed to expand the Democrats' base from the Northeast and Pacific Coast. During his conference call yesterday, Dean noted that every Democratic convention since 1988 had been held in a coastal city.
Until last fall, Denver had lacked a unionized hotel that could play host to the Democratic convention. That problem was solved when the Hyatt next to the Colorado Convention Center unionized under pressure from local leaders.
Another concern had been whether Denver had the corporate base to raise an estimated $80 million to fund the convention.
Colorado officials said they were reaching out to governors and businesses in other states to help generate the dollars needed, saying that the Democratic convention will be a net gain for the entire West.
"This is not just about one city," said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, "but about all the transformations that have been taking place in the region in the last decade."
Nicholas Riccardi writes for the Los Angeles Times.