Miami ‘anxious, not frustrated’ over Democrats’ 2020 convention indecision

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach, concedes and thanks supporters during primary election night party at his campaign headquarters in Wynwood on Tuesday, August 28, 2018.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach, concedes and thanks supporters during primary election night party at his campaign headquarters in Wynwood on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. adiaz@miamiherald.com

On the heels of critical comments from his predecessor, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, the point man on negotiations to bring the 2020 Democratic presidential convention to Miami next summer, said Wednesday that the plodding pace on a decision to name a host city has made him “anxious” but “not frustrated.”

Gelber told the Miami Herald that he respects Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez’s need to be deliberate as he chooses between Miami, Houston and Milwaukee. And he dismissed the idea that the decision was coming so late that planning and fundraising for the event have been set back.

“It’s been a pretty long process, so I’m assuming it will be this week or next,” said Gelber. “A couple of extra days won’t dramatically change anyone’s life. I fully appreciate some of the frustration. I don’t know that I share it. I’m anxious. I’m not frustrated.”

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Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber David Santiago dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Gelber’s comments contrast with those made Tuesday by former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine, the co-chairman of Miami’s convention committee. Levine, a prominent Democratic fundraiser and recent gubernatorial candidate, told Politico that Perez has dragged his feet to the point of hurting preparations no matter where the event is held.

“Everybody should have a concern over this massive delay and how it affects the planning and funding of a convention,” Levine told Politico. “We were told this would happen in January, and it’s March and we still don’t know where the convention is going to be.”

A DNC spokesperson said there was no date set yet for an announcement, and explained that there are still some “last-minute logistical questions for each city.” In 2015, then-DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced Philadelphia as the site of the 2016 convention on Feb. 12.

Levine, who did not respond to two text messages seeking comment and a phone call Wednesday, was not voicing isolated frustrations.

Some sources in and out of Miami were somewhat quizzical when the DNC brought all three cities back to the negotiating table in late January, a decision that appears to have drawn out the decision on a host city. And some have grown past the point of anticipation after waiting for a decision that was supposed to come in January and then February.

But boosters in Milwaukee and Houston have refrained from criticizing the delayed decision amid what some have called a DNC “media lockdown.”

“Houston is waiting eagerly,” said Alan Bernstein, a spokesman for Mayor Sylvester Turner.

“It’s a big decision,” said a Democratic official working on Milwaukee’s convention. “They want to get it right. We respect that.”

Still, Gelber said he doesn’t think Levine’s comments will harm Miami’s chances of landing the convention. And Miami’s other co-chairman, Democratic booster Chris Korge, defended the current indecision.

Korge said the budget is “six times as big as the Super Bowl.”

“In all fairness to Tom Perez and the DNC, they’ve only just gotten all the information, even from us. They got the last bit of info from us like a week ago or eight days ago,” said Korge, referring to $5 million in cash and a contract for 15,000 hotel rooms that were recently nailed down. “So, anyone acting like it’s not being done timely, I don’t think they’re waffling at all.”

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Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez Andrew Harnik AP

Gelber said no one will remember how long it took to choose a host city once Perez makes a decision.

“This will all be dust in the wind in a couple months or a couple of weeks,” he said. “Maybe even a couple of hours.”

Miami Herald reporter Taylor Dolven and Joey Flechas, and McClatchy DC reporter Adam Wollner contributed to this report.

David Smiley is a Florida native (yes, they exist) and veteran of South Florida journalism. He’s covered schools, cops and crime, and various city halls, earning awards for stories about municipal pensions and Miami Beach’s police department. He became the Miami Herald’s political reporter in 2018 and covered the midterm elections and recount.