WEST CHESTER >> Chester County Democrats reacted with delighted anticipation to the news Thursday that the Democratic National Committee had selected neighboring Philadelphia as the site of the party’s 2016 convention, at which a presidential nominee will be chosen.
The presence of the convention in the City of Brotherly Love will not only bring national attention to the city and region, local party members said, but would also have an impact on the state and local political races on the ballot next year.
“I think it is great for the city,” said Chester County Democratic Committee Chairman Brian McGinnis in an interview Thursday. “I think it is great for the region, and I think it is great for the Democratic Party.
“It is definitely going to help us turn out the party’s voters in 2016,” McGinnis said. “Even though Pennsylvania hasn’t really been that much of a contested state recently, I think there will be a great opportunity to capitalize on the convention and really turn the state blue in 2016.”
McGinnis noted that the state will have a U.S. Senate seat, now held by Republican Pat Toomey, in play, as well as the each member of the state’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, including three seats that will be decided by county voters.
County Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Kathi Cozzone, who has attended the party’s last two national conventions, echoed McGinnis’ thoughts.
“I think the party is going to be energized in 2016 regardless, but this event could translate into helping us across the state,” she said. “I think it is very exciting to have the convention in Philadelphia. It is a benefit, not just for the city but for the surrounding region. I think it is wonderful news.”
The two other finalists in the selection process were Brooklyn, N.Y., and Columbus, Ohio.
The convention will take place the week after Republicans hold their national convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July. Organizers plan to hold the convention at the Wells Fargo Center, with events also at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City.
Being in the sports complex, Democrats may hold the final night in an open air venue like Citizen’s Bank Park or Lincoln Financial Field.
McGinnis praised the work done by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, former Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Rep. Robert Brady of Philadelphia, for their work in securing the selection.
“I think Governor Rendell and Congressman Brady are great advocates for the city of Philadelphia, and their behind-the-scenes work helped to bring this to fruition,” he said. “They have done a tremendous job, along with Mayor Nutter. It turned out well for us, Chester County especially.”
He said that among the talks ahead, the local party will be organizing events that will draw convention goers to the county and help boost local party morale.
“That is definitely something we will be talking about,” he said. “We really want to capitalize on the convention being in Philadelphia and bring people out here for some events.
Cozzone, remembering her past trips to Denver and Charlotte, was asked where she would suggest the Philadelphia conventioneers visit in the county during their off-time.
“That’s a tough one,” she said. “There is so much to do. I hate to play favorites, but Longwood Gardens is certainly one of the venues at the top of the list. But we have so many great restaurants all across the county, and historical tours, and wine tours … I am certain (the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau) will be doing everything they can to encourage folks to spend time in Chester County.
Democratic Party activist Cheryl McVickar of West Vincent, who attended the 2012 Democratic convention in Charlotte, as an alternate delegate, said she was thrilled with the news.
“I am really happy for Philadelphia,” she said. ”It’s a great place to have it. It is such an experience — just the people you see, from the media and the political big-wigs, hearing all the speeches. It is a wonderful feeling to have everyone together working for the same thing.
“If they do as good a job as they did the last time, it is going to be amazing,” said McVickar. “Heck, I don’t need to be a delegate. I’d want to go and just hang out there.”
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.