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Is Brooklyn the place for the 2016 Democratic convention?

Signs for the 2016 Democratic National Convention are seen outside the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn August 11, 2014.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Brooklyn long ago completed its transformation from unhip to uber-cool. Now the borough wants to put its stamp on national politics.

Bill de Blasio, New York's new mayor, has launched an enthusiastic campaign to make Brooklyn the home of the Democratic Party's next political convention in 2016. Held once every four years, the convention serves to nominate the party's presidential candidate and rally the party faithful.

Mr. de Blasio, himself a proud Brooklynite, won election last year by pledging to tackle income inequality and to deliver universal, free preschool for the city's children. His brand of politics is decidedly progressive – read left-leaning – and popular among young Democrats.

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On Monday, a host of New York politicians gathered outside the Barclays Center, a new arena that would serve as the convention venue. The event marked the start of a two-day visit by the Democratic Party officials tasked with picking the host city (also on the agenda: dinner with the mayor at his official residence, a harbour cruise and a tour of the subway system).

Holding the convention anywhere else in the country "is just going to be enhhh," said Laurie Cumbo, a member of New York's city council who represents Brooklyn. "This is going to be epic."

So should the Democratic Party embrace its left flank and Brooklyn's unique charms?

Some factors to consider:

The Hillary Factor. Hillary Clinton is not yet a declared candidate, let alone the party's nominee, but she looms over every move the Democrats make. Ms. Clinton and Bill Clinton encouraged Mr. de Blasio to proceed with his bid for the convention, The New York Times reported, citing three unnamed sources "with knowledge of the discussions."

That's unwelcome news for the other contenders, which include Philadelphia, Columbus, Ohio, Phoenix and Birmingham, Ala.

Swing States. One form of conventional wisdom holds that the choice of a convention city should be part of a broader effort to win critical states (New York, solidly Democratic, is in no way a toss-up). In keeping with such thinking, the Republican Party has selected Cleveland as the venue for its 2016 convention.

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The problem is that the tactic doesn't always work; indeed, it backfired in memorable fashion in the 2012 election. The Democrats selected Charlotte, N.C., in a bid to deliver the state to Barack Obama; the Republicans selected Tampa in an attempt to secure the country's most infamous swing state for Mitt Romney. But in the end, North Carolina voted for the Republican and Florida voted for the Democrat.

Unique advantages… There are plenty of appealing aspects to holding a convention in New York. It's the country's media capital, which helps to guarantee sustained news coverage. It's also home to many deep-pocketed donors from both parties, a key consideration since the host city bears only a small fraction of the total cost of holding the shindig. Those were both factors that led the Republicans to choose New York as the site of their 2004 convention – plus the city's symbolic resurgence after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

… and disadvantages. New York has held political conventions several times in the past 50 years, but always in midtown Manhattan at Madison Square Garden. Brooklyn is a different beast. There are no large hotels near the Barclays Center, which means that most of the thousands of delegates would have to travel there from Manhattan (organizers are promising "dedicated traffic lanes" that would cut the trip to 15 minutes on special buses). And while Brooklyn has an excellent story to tell – an impressive renaissance and level of diversity – there will also be some who question whether a borough known for artisanal cheeses and hipster boutiques relates to America.

The group gathered Monday outside the Barclays Center showed no such doubts. "Brooklyn is an American success story," said Melissa Mark-Viverito, the speaker of New York's city council. And "New York is where Democratic values are more than words."

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About the Author
U.S. Correspondent

Joanna Slater is an award-winning foreign correspondent for The Globe based in the United States, where her focus is business and economic news and New York City.Her career includes reporting assignments in the U.S., Europe and Asia. In 2015, she was posted in Berlin, Germany, where she covered Europe’s refugee crisis. More


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