Josh Shapiro, David Cohen and Ed Rendell all had a hand in bringing the 2016 convention to the City of Brotherly Love.
In listening to Philadelphia leaders discuss how the city managed to secure the bids for the Republican National convention in 2000 and now the Democratic National Convention in 2016, two things became clear: Political and business leaders don’t mind crossing party lines when it comes to hosting the other party's convention, and in each case, Jewish leaders played a significant role.
The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday that Philadelphia had been selected to host the 2016 convention, beating out Columbus, Ohio and Brooklyn, N.Y.
“There is clearly no better city to have this special event than Philadelphia,” DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Jewish lawmaker from Florida, said, in announcing the selection over a conference call with Mayor Michael Nutter, who sat beside Montgomery County Chairman Josh Shapiro at City Hall. “The role of Philadelphia in shaping our nation’s history is unmatched, and what was also unmatched was the comprehensive proposal that the Philadelphia team put together to ensure that we have a top-notch plan for logistics, financing and security.”
Nutter also announced that David Cohen, the executive vice president of Comcast, who is Jewish, would serve as the senior adviser of the DNC PHL 2016 host organization. Former Gov. Ed Rendell, also Jewish, led efforts to secure the bid and will lead the organization.
Hosting the convention is clearly a boon for the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania, but at the news conference, leaders also emphasized the economic impact the conference had on the city in 2000 and the positive effect they expect it to have in 2016.
A telling moment during the news conference came when Rendell, who as Philadelphia mayor from 1992 to 2000 led efforts to host the Republican convention, said over a conference call that “the 2000 Republican Convention in Philadelphia is probably regarded as the most successful convention in the last 25 years.”
Rendell is a member of the Democratic Party, which, of course, lost that contentious presidential election between the Democrat, Al Gore, and the Republican, George W. Bush.
Nutter and Shapiro both smiled at the comment, with Nutter clarifying that the success came “economically.”
Rendell said of the 2000 convention, “I was the mayor who persuaded the Republicans to come to Philadelphia, but by the time the convention rolled around, I was chairman” of the Democratic National Committee, and “I was not even allowed in the building.”
After Rendell became DNC chairman, Cohen led the planning for the last six months before the convention, the former governor said.
Cohen, who has long been seen as a key fundraiser and donor to Democratic candidates, including President Barack Obama, has at times also supported Republicans. Cohen supported former Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, in his 2014 re-election bid against Gov. Tom Wolf, hosting a fundraiser that reportedly raised $200,000.
When asked about supporting Corbett and now playing a key role in the Democratic convention effort, Cohen said, "I've supported Republicans and Democrats through my entire career — so that's No. 1; 2014 was nothing different. Second of all, this is not a political activity. The host committee is a nonprofit entity. This is a civic activity to bring a convention to the city."
Nutter said Cohen's role as adviser to the host committee was “a huge boost, given who David is, not only here locally, but also nationally." He cited Cohen's relationships with the Democratic National Committee and Obama directly.
In discussing the bid with a crowded room of reporters at City Hall, Nutter emphasized the economic impact.
“Our hospitality” industry “is on fire, the things that we have to offer. 11,600 hotel rooms downtown, incredible venues, the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center, one of the best in the United States. We do have this opportunity literally to make history again.”
Shapiro, who is Jewish, said in an interview with the Jewish Exponent that he was among a small group of leaders who began talking about the bid for the conference at the Union League of Philadelphia nearly two years ago.
Of the role he, Cohen and other Jewish leaders played in the process, Shapiro said, “Victory has a thousand fathers and mothers, and it was nice to see a number of American Jews sitting around the table, both coming up with the idea to go after” the convention “and also now being a part of the effort to bring it into reality.”