ST. LOUIS • St. Louis hasn’t hosted a Democratic National Convention since Woodrow Wilson was president. And in 2016, it won’t host another.
St. Louis was one of about 30 cities to receive letters within the last week inquiring about interest in hosting the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Jeff Rainford, chief of staff to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, said late Wednesday night that the city would decline the invitation, citing the private fundraising focus for the ongoing $380 million effort to reshape the Gateway Arch grounds.
“I don’t think people realize how large that project is,” Rainford said. “And that is the focus.”
The city was a runner-up to host the 2012 convention, losing out to Charlotte, N.C.
Political parties require a certain level of private fundraising from the selected host city. In 2012, Charlotte signed a contract to raise $36.7 million in private funds. St. Louis would have been required to do something similar.
Rainford said the city expects to have widespread support to host a political convention in 2020, when the Arch project is fully completed. He said he would expect the city would put in a competitive bid at that time.
Brian Wahby, the former chairman of the city’s Democratic Party who led the 2012 effort, was in Washington on Wednesday to attend the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting. His aim was to woo party officials as part of an effort to bring the convention to St. Louis.
Rainford said the decision was part of a week-long conversation, and had to be made before Saturday.
Other cities invited include Austin, Texas; Chicago; Dallas; Kansas City; Minneapolis; Memphis, Tenn.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; Seattle; and Tampa, Fla.
Kansas City is aggressively seeking the 2016 Republican National Convention.
St. Louis has a long history of hosting Democratic conventions. It has done it four times — but not since 1916. The Democratic Party’s decision isn’t expected to be made until the early part of 2016.
Many believed the 2012 decision came down to electoral politics. North Carolina was in play for President Barack Obama. Missouri wasn’t.
“It’s very situational from one cycle to the next,” said William A. Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Your chances tend to be better if you’re in a swing state.”
Missouri has veered from that label in recent election cycles, reliably voting for Republican presidential candidates.
“Missouri would be a stretch for any Democratic candidate at this point,” Galston said.
Since 2000, however, convention sites haven’t been much of an advantage in tipping the electoral scales. Former President George W. Bush was nominated at Republican conventions in Philadelphia and New York. He lost both states. In 2008, Republicans nominated John McCain in Minnesota, and he lost there. Last cycle, Republicans chose Tampa. Nominee Mitt Romney narrowly lost the state. And Obama lost North Carolina in 2012.