Democrats putting Denver ‘on the map’ |

Democrats putting Denver ‘on the map’

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Elbra Wedgeworth, chair of the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee for the Democratic Party, held a press conference Monday in Glenwood Springs. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Elbra Wedgeworth started thinking about the Democratic National Convention in the fall of 2005.

“We didn’t have the infrastructure for the two previous bids,” Wedgeworth said. “I thought if we brought the convention here it would really put us on the map.”

Wedgeworth spoke to the Garfield County Democratic Party during its Martin Luther King Jr. Day dinner Monday evening, touching on King’s persistence and willingness to follow his dreams. It’s persistence ” like King’s ” that has helped Denver win the honor of hosting the Democratic National Convention.

“He’s inspired me to do what I do,” Wedgeworth said.

Wedgeworth, a former Denver city councilor, said starting the bid process to host the convention was as simple as raising her hand during a reception for Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and saying, “We would be interested in hosting the convention.”

She wanted to promote Denver, Colo. and the West. Plus, there’s the benefit of the economic impact. Wedgeworth said the convention will host about 35,000 people who are actually involved ” not counting their families or anyone who travels with them. Of those expected, about 15,000 are journalists from around the world. Wedgeworth said the convention could generate up to $200 million.

Wedgeworth had discussions with the business bureau and Mayor John Hickenlooper, she said, and was eventually able to convince people it was a good idea and Denver could pull it off.

“I just knew that I know the right people,” she said.

Wedgeworth is chair of the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee. She’s a native of Denver and began working in Denver’s government in 1989.

Eventually, a 600-page bid package that weighed about 15 pounds was produced. It included things like support letters and hotel specifications.

“Everything you wanted to know about Colorado was in this bid package,” she said.

A group of 35 supporters of Denver’s bid went to New Orleans for a first round of receptions with the message, “We’re from the West. We can do this,” she said. “We just wanted it more than anything in the world.”

The West trending more Democratic in the last election had a lot to do with the bid’s success, she said, but so did enthusiasm from everyone from the cab drivers and waitresses to the hotel managers and the governor.

But the work isn’t over yet. About $40 million still needs to be raised to host the convention.

Wedgeworth expects the western U.S. to play a key role in determining who becomes the next president.

“I think very seriously that the pathway to the presidency is through the West,” she said. “If Kerry would have won Colorado and two other states, he probably would have been president.”

She expects it to be the “greenest” convention yet, with environmental issues capturing discussion. Other key messages will include “traditional western values that can resonate across the U.S.” such as water and themes on new ideas and opportunities.

During Wedgeworth’s press conference, Garfield County Democrats mingled downstairs at the Ramada Inn. Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert said hosting the convention in Denver would “absolutely” have a beneficial effect on the Western Slope by bringing to light Colorado’s value and diversity.

Ken Brenner, who announced his candidacy for the Colorado State Senate last week, said Hickenlooper is trying to make the convention not just about Denver but about the Rocky Mountain West. He compared hosting the convention to hosting the Olympics, saying there may be no money made, but hopefully everyone will remember and appreciate Denver and the west.

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