Arizona GOP: Bill won't hurt 2016 convention bid

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Republican Party officials said Thursday that vetoed state legislation that would have allowed business owners to refuse to serve gays for religious reasons shouldn't impact Phoenix's chances of hosting the 2016 national convention.

Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham says the Republican National Committee's focus is on issues such as venues, transportation and security.

"If anything, they want to have a fantastic venue and a city that has transportation and resources to support the venue. Phoenix is most definitely capable of doing that," Graham said.

Graham says the outcry in the last week over Senate Bill 1062 shows that the state of Arizona is politically engaged.

"The state has been in a very dynamic movement and we're maturing as a state every day," Graham said.

Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed the bill, which sparked a nationwide furor and evoked calls for businesses to boycott Arizona. Despite being nixed, the legislation, and its effect on the state's image, is still a hot topic of conversation. Complaints that the legislation basically legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians contrasts with Republicans recent efforts to be more inclusive.

Ryan Mahoney, a RNC spokesman, declined to comment on how much weight, if any, would be given to the political climate in Phoenix.

"To speculate on a specific city before they come in and make their bids, I don't think that's fair to the other cities," Mahoney said.

In general, Mahoney said, the RNC's site-selection committee looks at how much hotel and convention space a city can offer and how it would handle security and transportation.

"At end of day, it is the overall bid package that's considered. One thing does not necessarily outweigh the other," Mahoney said.

Graham and other representatives for the Arizona GOP, including former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, and Phoenix will present their bid to the RNC selection committee Monday in Washington, D.C.

Phoenix is one of eight cities party leaders are considering. Other cities in the running include Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Mo., and three in Ohio - Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The chosen city will be announced this fall.

If Phoenix wins hosting duties, the state GOP will have to raise $55 million through private and corporate donations, according to Graham. But the city would also invest some funds. Graham believes the city could see anywhere from $600 million to a half-billion dollars in spending.

"This is one of those opportunities that touches everybody - corporations, waiters, servers," Graham said. "Given the venue, the opportunity, our capacity, the predictable weather, there's not much that would derail a successful event."


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